What Virginians Need To Know About Tennessee Sports Betting Launch

Written By Martin Harris on October 29, 2020 - Last Updated on August 4, 2022

Virginians take note — your neighbors are having a party this weekend.

The time is drawing near for sports betting to go fully live in Tennessee. While Virginia bettors will have to travel to TN in order to join the party, we thought you’d like to have some idea what exactly is happening in TN as they finally take their first wagers after legalizing sports betting in May 2019.

Sunday is fun day for Tennessee sports bettors

The Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) regulates sports betting in the state, overseeing its operation and issuing licenses to operators and vendors.

In fact, the TEL’s Sports Wagering Committee was still discussing rules for sports betting late last week. All systems are go, however, for the first sportsbooks to launch by their announced target date of Sunday, Nov. 1.

At last week’s meeting, there was talk of an earlier “soft launch” coming a few days before Sunday. That said, as of today, none appears quite ready to start accepting real-money wagers. That means bettors will need to be just a little more patient and wait for the weekend to place their first legal sports wagers in the state.

Only online for Tennessee sportsbooks

Tennessee is unique in that it is the first state to legalize sports betting while restricting all sportsbooks to operate only online. That is to say, there are no retail sportsbooks allowed anywhere in the state.

Lawmakers went that route in part because the state has no brick-and-mortar casinos, anyway. The good news is that by going all-digital, bettors throughout the Volunteer State all have the same access to sports betting. Unlike some states where online sports betting is only allowed at certain physical premises, the TN sportsbooks are accessible anywhere throughout TN.

Geolocation technology will ensure anyone attempting to place a real money wager at any TN online sportsbook is physically within state lines when doing so. That means those in Bristol, VA who want to place a bet at a Tennessee sportsbook will need to drive over the border to Bristol, TN first. You may have some trouble geolocating right on the border, so be prepared to drive a couple of miles into Tennessee in order to bet.

Virginians and others outside of Tennessee can create accounts at the TN online sportsbooks. They will need to be in Tennessee, however, and at least 21 years of age, in order to place any bets.

Four online sportsbooks ready to go at launch

So far the TEL has issued licenses to four operators to launch their online sportsbooks in the state:

  • DraftKings
  • FanDuel
  • BetMGM
  • Action 24/7

The first three on the list are already very familiar in the sports betting landscape, with each already operating sportsbooks in other states. The fourth one, Action 24/7, is a Tennessee-based operator looking to compete with the established names once sports betting kicks off in earnest this weekend.

Users can access all four sportsbooks via a web-based browser on a desktop or laptop. Each should also have mobile apps for both Android and iOS (Apple) users. The apps will provide the same functionality and banking options found on the websites.

Neither DraftKings, FanDuel, nor BetMGM has added their Tennessee sportsbooks just yet. Doing should be a relatively simple matter for them, however, given how each already fully operate online sportsbooks in other states.

Free-to-play games at Action 24/7 available to Virginians

Meanwhile, the Action 24/7 site is up and running for players to begin registering accounts. In fact, starting Wednesday Action 24/7 started offering free play games available to all 50 states.

The first free play game offered was the “Daily Shag.” Players are invited to pick multiple games, doing so by filling out a kind of parlay ticket. Getting every pick correct enables players to split a share of a cash prize.

Yesteday’s game featuring six soccer matches had a prize of $50. This weekend the site is offering multiple free play games with prizes ranging from $50 to $1,000. Some have creative names such as the SEC “Do they Even Play Football Up North” Accumulator, the “Why do I care” Weekly Super Game, and the Spooky Bag of Tricks or Treats.

The free games are all collected in the “Freeplay Lobby” on the site. Here’s how it looked not long after it first went live:

The TN Action 24/7 Sportsbook "Freeplay Lobby"

What sports can you bet on in Tennessee?

Once real money betting goes live, the sportsbooks will be able to accept wagers on a wide variety of sports.

The TEL’s Sports Wagering Committee approved a list of 27 sports on which the sportsbooks can take bets. Football, basketball, baseball, hockey, soccer, golf, tennis, and all of the usual suspects are there, of course. So, too, are a number of off-the-beaten path sports like bowling, bull riding, sailing, and skiing.

Also approved were eSports, although sportsbooks will need to obtain pre-approval on particular leagues or matches before accept bets on eSports.

College sports: no individual props or in-game props

Tennessee will allow betting on TN college teams, although with a couple of restrictions.

For collegiate sports, proposition bets on individual athletes will not be allowed.

In-game wagers on prop bets are also not permitted on college sports.

In any event, do expect a few choices to be missing among the menu of wagering options when it comes to college sports.

What sports can you bet on in Tennessee?

Finally, there is one other element of sports betting in Tennessee that is unique besides being all online.

A 10% hold requirement has been placed on every operator. That means each sportsbook is restricted to payout, at most, 90% of the total wagers it takes. This requirement is sometimes also described as a payout cap.

This is a unique requirement. In fact, Tennessee is the only state with legal sports betting that has introduced a hold requirement. The 10% figure is also high when compared to the hold most sportsbooks enjoy. For example, in Nevada sportsbooks typically hold around 5-6% each month.

It remains to be seen how the hold requirement or payout cap will affect what types of wagers the sportsbooks will be able to offer.

Indeed, there is a lot else still up in the air as well regarding sports betting in Tennessee. But it should be interesting to see how things develop in the first state with online-only sports betting.

Photo by AP / Jeff Martin
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Martin Harris

Martin Harris is a writer and teacher who has reported on poker, online gambling, and sports betting since the mid-2000s. Once a full-time academic (Ph.D., English), he currently teaches part-time in the American Studies program at UNC Charlotte. His book Poker & Pop Culture was published by D&B Books in 2019.

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