Bill Paves The Way For Sports Betting In Tennessee

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (localmemphis.com) - Memphians might soon be able to bet on their favorite sports teams if a new bill becomes law in 2019.

The "Tennessee Sports Gaming Act" would allow local governments to decide whether or not to allow sports betting. According to the bill's sponsor, State Representative Rick Staples, the bill intends to allow local governments to have a new form of income.

"Billions of dollars leave the state of Tennessee to our neighboring states with casino and table gambling.  So, this is a new stream of revenue that the federal government is allowing the states to take advantage of," said Representative Staples.

His bill is gaining support. Across the aisle state Senator, Brian Kelsey is drafting his own version.

"I am in the process of drafting a sports betting bill that would generate revenue specifically for preK-12 education," he said. "I think it is important to have local control over where sports betting takes place, so my bill would allow City Councils in Memphis and the other three large cities to designate areas for physical sports betting locations subject to a vote by the people. Local governments will also have the authority to collect some of the revenue from these physical sports betting locations. I will be discussing the issue with my fellow legislators when we return to Nashville next week."

Under Staples proposed legislation, a Tennessee gaming commission would be established and work with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) to make sure establishments are regulated.

It would be up to local communities to then petition their local government with at least 10% of voters calling for a vote on legalizing betting in their area.

If the bill passes, it could create a significant source of revenue for local and state programs. The bill will impose a 10% tax on the gross income of anyone holding a betting license paid monthly.

Here's the breakdown of where revenue would go:

-40% of the taxes collected would go to the state general fund to be appropriated by legislators

 -30% would go to community and tech colleges 

-30% would go to local governments

Local governments would have to use 50% of the money for their school systems and the other half would go towards local infrastructure projects.

Both bills will be discussed when the legislature meets again January 8.

But not everyone is sold on the idea. Dr. Ted Bender, with Turning Point and Addiction Campuses, is cautiously optimistic about the bill.

"It'll be interesting to see if this bill passes if that increases the gambling problem in this country or it just stays the same and the money is just rerouted to different places."

Dr. Bender hopes lawmakers take into account gambling addiction and allocate money for those who need it.

"I would really hope that the lawmakers strongly consider putting money towards mental health and addiction treatment as a way to kind of help people who are struggling with this in the first place."

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