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The NFL season arrived Thursday night as the defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers played America's team, the Dallas Cowboys.

And as the state of Tennessee prepares for its first full football season with legalized sports gambling, there is little debate about the impact of the 10-month-old state law.

It's win-win-win.

Through the first half of 2021, more than $1 billion was legally wagered in Tennessee, which equates to roughly $161 wagered per person through the first six months of the year, according to TnBets.com.

That created almost $20 million in tax revenue for the state in 2021 through June. (Tennessee collects 20% of the revenue its online gambling partners collect. For example, if $1 billion is wagered and online betting partners collect $550 million, that means they paid out $450 million to Tennessee bettors. Hence, the partners had $100 million in revenue, and the taxed return to the state is $20 million.)

Those numbers are going to grow exponentially now that football season has arrived. According to the American Gaming Association, 36% more Americans expected to bet on the NFL this season compared to last year.

It will certainly add another $20-plus-million — or more — into the state tax coffers.

In fact, when today's political division feels like a prime time TV show slotted between "Wheel of Fortune" and "Jeopardy!", we may have found the only recent political controversy that almost no one has an issue with after the fact.

Sure, there were some who clutched their pearls about the perils of legalized gambling and gambling addiction. Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declined to sign the bill, allowing it to become state law without his express support.

But there's been nary a peep from the governor nor his supporters against the windfall the state is enjoying with the legalization.

In some ways, it mirrors the last time the state explored gambling as an enterprise.

Remember the hand-wringing about a state-funded lottery? Yeah, me neither. In truth, the outrage about this scourge or that vice was so overblown it's hard to remember who screamed loudest.

What is a lasting memory though is the thousands of families who have used lottery-funded scholarships to get through college. (Anyone want to bet on whether an individual's decision to play a scratch-off is a better way to help pay for some college costs than student loan forgiveness mandated from Washington? I'll wait.)

Around here, we open the 2021 NFL season with professional clubs staring at opposite ends of the spectrum. The Tennessee Titans are the favorite to win their division and in some circles are a trendy Super Bowl pick. The Atlanta Falcons, well, they are the Falcons once again.

But as league standings start to count, the real numbers that count are being collected by Tennessee and put toward infrastructure, education and health care.

So whether your team — or your wagers — comes up short this weekend, we all have reason to feel like winners.

Contact Jay Greeson at jgreeson@timesfreepress.com.

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Jay Greeson
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