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Tennessee's sports betting launch sees unprecedented success

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Posted at 3:53 PM, Jan 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-29 14:06:56-05

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Tennessee officials say the state's online-only sports betting program has seen $312.3 million in gross wagers in its first two months, yielding $5.4 million in privilege taxes, making it the best two-month debut in U.S. sports betting history, according to PlayTenn.

Online sports betting was narrowly passed by lawmakers in the spring of 2019. After more than a year and a half of prep and regulatory work, it launched in Nov. of 2020 with great anticipation from sports fans across the state.

In Dec., the state reached $180.9 million in gross wagers, $167 million in gross payouts and almost $3.1 million in privilege tax revenues from sports betting, according to figures released by the Tennessee Lottery. All three topped the totals from November.

Jessica Welman says she's not the only one stunned by Tennessee's sports betting performance.

"To put it in comparison, December alone Tennessee reaped more money from sports betting tax than the state of Colorado has the entire time sports betting launched there, and they launched in May," said Welman.

Welman is the lead analysis for Play Tenn.com, which provides the latest gambling news and information for the state.

"This is just the beginning and once we get more operators in the marketplace it’s going to be even bigger," said Welman.

Tennessee launched online sports betting in November 2020, so far collecting more than $5.4 million in privilege taxes.

Four sportsbooks are operating: DraftKings, FanDuel, BetMGM and Tennessee Action 24/7. Three more could be by the Super Bowl, according to the Associated Press.

Tennessee is doing quite well and could see more books on the board by the Superbowl. She says a lot of people in the business were unsure Tennessee was going to be successful for online sports betting because of its rules and regulations.

"We were absolutely wrong, because these four operators are really generating a lot of activity in Tennessee."

Sports betting experts say give Tennessee more time and we'll definitely see more money.

"Here you created a new market that is going to bring in consistently two to three million dollars a month just for the state," said Welman.

Eighty percent of the tax revenue goes into an education account that mostly funds post-secondary scholarships. Fifteen percent goes toward local government needs and 5% funds gambling problem treatment programs.

PlayTenn analysts say the state's choice to use online betting played a large role in its success, especially at a time when in-person activities were being limited due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The state also saw no competition; none of its seven neighboring states offered online sports betting during its first two months, and only two, Arkansas and Mississippi, are home to any retail betting.

“Tennessee launched under near-perfect conditions and that can be seen in the early results,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayTenn.com. “Even with added competition from Virginia now going live, Tennessee’s start has established the state as a significant player in the U.S. And I don’t see anything that will stop the market’s momentum in the short-ter

Tennessee is currently the country's seventh-largest sports betting market.