The Current State of Gambling in Tennessee

It’s pretty well understood that Tennessee isn’t particularly friendly towards gambling, not least online betting. The state hosts a grand total of zero casinos, and no horse racing tracks, while also prohibiting all real-money online casino games from being played.

Due to the state’s aggressive attitude when it comes to gambling, the reaction amongst bettors upon the announcement of sports betting arriving in Tennessee was one of shock. Following the inclusion of online sports betting, Tennessee became the first state in the entire US to offer gambling solely in an online format.

Despite Tennessee’s overall reluctance to welcome further changes to its online and retail gambling laws, there are still some aspects of its betting scene that need to be discussed. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about Tennessee’s gambling industry.

Other than online sports betting, there’s not much going on in the world of online gambling in Tennessee. The Volunteer State isn’t quite as hostile towards betting as Idaho or Hawaii, but there’s certainly a distaste for online casino gaming and poker.

To be specific, online casinos are not allowed to set up shop in TN, nor can online poker sites provide their services from within the state. Added to that, the barriers preventing retail casinos from planting their seeds in Tennessee have pushed anyone interested in poker, table games, slots, and other popular genres out of the state.

However, users can enjoy swathes of online sports action throughout the year via the various platforms available. Moreover, bettors are free to indulge in DFS (Daily Fantasy Sports) and horse racing events taking place all over the country.

Hopefully, Tennessee softens its strict laws restricting online and retail gambling in the future, but we wouldn’t bet on it just yet.

Gambling Laws in Tennessee

Due to laws written up in Tennesee’s rulebook, gambling is more or less outlawed. Apart from a few notable forms of online wagering, people interested in gambling will need to venture out of state to enjoy everything they love about the hobby.

The primary culprit for this near-blanket ban on all things gambling is Tenn. Code § 39-17-501. Under its wording, virtually all kinds of gambling you can imagine are outlawed by the state. To give you a better understanding of just how anti-gambling the code is, we’ll read the first line: “Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state.”

Bettors won’t enjoy seeing such wording in their state’s law, but with every cloud, there’s a silver lining. In this instance, that silver lining is sports betting. Since its inception, online sports gambling has been a major success in TN and might just be the inspiration lawmakers needed to warm up to online casino gaming.

The official definition for gambling is, by Tennessee’s own law, “risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance.” The Section goes on to explain that gambling also refers to “any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels, and the like.”

With casinos explicitly named in the rulebook as well as popular types of games, it seems unlikely that Tennessee will come around to accepting wagers on those games. If you’re wondering where it mentions sports betting, the Section subsequently reads:

“Gambling does not include: Lawfully accepting or placing a wager on a sporting event.”

As you can see, there’s a lot of picking and choosing of what is and isn’t gambling from Tennessee’s lawmakers.

How Long Have These Laws Been in Place?

Tennessee has been against gambling longer than most of us have been alive. There have been forays in and out of gambling over the years, but, for the most part, TN has remained stringent in its opposition to nearly all forms of gambling until recently.

In 2016, DFS was finally legalized when Governor Bill Haslam signed a table-turning bill. This was a momentous occasion and marked a sharp change in direction from the state, as just several weeks earlier Tennessee’s attorney general said, under no uncertain terms, that DFS was illegal.

Regarding casino gambling - those laws have been in place for decades. Tennessee has an extensive, unapologetically anti-gambling history, with many residents of the state living out their entire lives without being allowed to indulge in games involving betting.

The Gambling Regulators in Tennessee

As is the case in all states that offer legal forms of gambling, there’s a regulator in place to protect Tennessee’s bettors from falling victim to dangerous websites and practices. The Tennessee Education Lottery - TEL for short - provides oversight on all things gambling in TN.

The board holds regular meetings to remain up to date on every occurrence to do with gambling. In these meetings, they may discuss licensing, new regulations, provide information regarding ongoing investigations, and more. The TEL is the body responsible for the regulation and licensing of online sports wagering in Tennessee. 

It’s impossible to tell whether or not they’d be the overseers of online casino gaming if it was ever made legal in Tennessee. The likely answer is yes, as it would maintain a one-way system for all gambling activities within state lines.

The primary objectives of the Tennessee Education Lottery are:

  • Maintaining the integrity of gambling in the state
  • Protecting minors 
  • Preventing illegal operators from taking advantage of residents
  • Regulating and licensing sports betting operators

Offshore Sites vs Domestic, Licensed Operators

On the face of it, offshore sites may look enticing and friendly. Usually, they’ll offer a warm welcome to all visitors. However, the reality is often far more sinister.

Offshore, illegal operators aren’t regulated by recognized US authorities. This means they’re not held to the same high standards set by licensed online betting sites while also leaving various security holes. By creating an account with an online casino or sportsbook based offshore, users are putting their money and private information at risk.

For residents in Tennessee, the allure of offshore online casinos is understandable. Some may feel as though lawmakers have treated them wrongly and that bettors owe the state nothing due to the strict laws preventing online casino games. Subsequently, users come to the conclusion that offshore sites are their last resort and only option.

While this may be true, it’s not worth the security risk. Since there are zero US regulators overseeing the actions carried out by offshore, unlicensed operators, there are no legal avenues for bettors to take if and when the offshore online casino kicks them off the site or steals their funds.

At offshore, illegal sites, each of the following statements is true:

  • Unfair games can be published on the site
  • The site is not regulated
  • The offshore online casino isn’t bound to the same rules as domestic sites
  • There is nothing in place to protect US players at offshore sites

Unless you’re willing to risk losing everything you put into an offshore account, we can’t recommend joining one of the unlicensed, foreign-based platforms.

Online Gambling in Tennessee - Which Genres are Legal?

As there are contradictions within Tennessee’s law regarding the definition of gambling, it can be difficult for casual players to get a grasp of what’s actually allowed and how to play. Below, you’ll find information on each of the most popular gambling categories - both legal and illegal - accompanied by the legalities surrounding them in TN.

Sports Betting in Tennessee

Online sports betting was made legal in Tennessee in May 2019, with sportsbooks first opening their virtual doors to customers around 18 months later. Upon the integration of online sports betting in the Volunteer State, it became the first state to solely provide online sports betting services, with retail sportsbooks still barred from entering the fray.

Sports bettors must be at least 21 years old before they’re allowed to place a wager on any of the legal, licensed online sportsbooks in Tennessee. Some notable sites currently found in TN include BetMGM, FanDuel, and WynnBet, with further additions to the roster likely over the next decade or so.

There are restrictions in place to prevent match-fixing and illegal behavior, too. Coaches, players, and anyone associated with the TEL is prohibited from placing sports wagers on any of the legal platforms found in Tennessee.

Also worth noting is that a 20% gross tax revenue is weighted on the shoulders of every licensed sportsbook in the state. The licenses don’t exactly come cheap, either, with the cost of one coming in at $750,000.

DraftKings Sportsbook

Having first arrived in Tennessee as a Daily Fantasy Sports website, DraftKings was a big hit in the state. After the introduction of online sports betting in TN, DraftKings became much more than just a DFS provider. Now, it’s one of the most-used online sports betting platforms across the entire state.

One of the best features found at DraftKings is the ability to cash out. This service allows customers to take home winnings earlier than they might have expected or protect against further potential losses. That, accompanied by the personalized bets created by DraftKings’ clever algorithms, makes it one of the best platforms for sports betting right now.

William Hill Sportsbook

A sportsbook that originates from the UK, William Hill made its way to the Tennessee market in March of 2021. News of this came after the bookmakers’ successful launch in other areas of the nation, and since its inception in TN, bettors appear to have been content with the services offered.

There are plenty of offers available all year round, and with such high betting odds compared to competitors, there might be no better place to wager on the most exciting sports events than William Hill.

BetMGM Sportsbook

Working in tandem with MGM Resorts, MGM’s online branch has been majorly successful in its various releases. Now in Tennessee as an online sportsbook, BetMGM boasts some of the most accessible and rewarding features on the market, today.

Users at BetMGM Tennessee can freely edit their bets if they so wish, ensuring a whole new level of freedom for sports bettors. Much like previously mentioned sportsbooks, BetMGM’s TN branch also allows users to cash out their bets - even those that have been edited.

FanDuel Sportsbook

Like DraftKings, FanDuel was also recognized as a Daily Fantasy Sports site in Tennessee before becoming a full-fledged sports betting provider. The team has partnered up with some big names in the gambling industry - namely the Stars Group - and operates under Flutter Entertainment’s license.

FanDuel offers a wide range of thrilling promotional offers consistently, and this, along with their fantastic array of odds across loads of markets, has helped the sportsbook take shape as one of the best in the business in TN.

WynnBet Sportsbook

While it’s not possible to visit a Wynn Casino in Tennessee, there are plenty of ways to wager on their sports markets. Now, the platform is growing on a mightily impressive scale, allowing customers to see odds through not just their site, but a handy mobile app too.

By using the mobile app, customers can indulge in their favorite sports events taking place worldwide. The downloadable WynnBet app works in much the same way as the WynnBet site itself, just on a smaller scale. So, if you want a service with all the bells and whistles of a website downloaded to your device, WynnBet is a great option.

Online Casino in Tennessee

As discussed, there are no legal online casinos available in Tennessee. Not just that, but there are also no licensed retail casinos in the state, either. Tennessee’s rigid stance towards online gambling of any kind took a slight hit when sports betting was legalized a few years ago, so we may see movement in a positive direction throughout the next several years.

For now, though, anyone interested in online casino gaming will have to bide their time before being allowed to indulge in the best slot games, roulette action, and blackjack fun.

Legal Online Casinos in TN

As you know by now, online casinos are not allowed to open their businesses in Tennessee for the time being. This is because of the specific wording in TN’s constitution that outlaws online gambling and retail betting in the state, making it impossible to enjoy everything that the world of online casino gaming can offer while inside state lines.

However, users can try out any of the following sweepstakes casinos found in Tennessee:

Chumba Casino

Chumba Casino is a solid option for anyone interested in online slot games, roulette, and more - without the need to deposit or risk losing money. Whilst no app is currently on offer, the Chumba Casino browser extension can be downloaded directly to mobile devices’ home screens and offers tonnes of fantastic casino games.

At the site, users will be greeted by around 70 titles in all. Although this isn’t quite as many as some real-money sites, it’s decent for a sweepstakes casino. Games include blackjack, table games, video poker, and more.

Funzpoints

As is the case with Chumba Casino, Funzpoints is a sweepstakes site that offers casino games free of charge. At the site, users will have the opportunity to spin the Mega Wheel once every few hours to try their hand at winning thousands of points. These points can be exchanged for cool prizes for all users aged 18 and over, with bonus points credited to newly registered accounts.

What’s more, Funzpoints also holds a regular draw where users can win immense rewards every day of the week. However, we must note that there are restrictions on the number of games available to fake-money players at Funzpoints.

LuckyLand Slots

Luckyland Slots is more or less what you’d expect from a site with such a name. The sweepstakes casino is jam-packed full of exciting slot titles, all of which are available without the need for real money bets. Rather, players at Luckyland use Sweeps Coins.

These coins are exchangeable for fun rewards, some of which are real-money prizes. It can be difficult to reach a worthy number of Sweeps Coins, though, so if you’re going to create a Luckyland Slots account you’ll want to be invested in their games for the long haul.

Poker in Tennessee

Much like online casinos, poker is outlawed in Tennessee. The only real-money sites found in the state are of the offshore kind, so we can’t recommend risking signing up with those platforms.

If you’re desperate to play online poker and not too bothered about the money aspect of things, there’s a sweepstakes site called Global Poker. Here, there’s no real money to be wagered, but it’s the same game that everyone knows and loves.

Other than that, though, options are incredibly limited. In reality, there’s very little for poker players to get from Tennessee. Even home games with friends are banned from TN, which just goes to show the anti-gambling nature of the state.

Lottery in Tennessee

Unlike poker and online casinos, Tennessee is quite encouraging when it comes to the state lottery. Proceeds from the regularly held lottery go toward educational funding for private and public institutions, while post-school educational programs are also partly funded by the lottery.

Anyone that wishes to partake in the state lottery in TN must be at least 18 years old. This is arguably a little surprising, as Tennessee seems like a state that would opt for an older age limit given its strict laws against other forms of gambling.

The lottery is regulated by the Tennessee Education Lottery and some of the games available are Powerball, Mega Millions, and the lottery itself.

Bingo in Tennessee

The long and short of bingo laws in Tennessee is simple, and about what you’d expect - it’s illegal. Dissimilar to many other states that prohibit bingo, Tennessee doesn’t even allow the game to be played at charitable events anymore.

Anyone caught playing bingo may be subject to a short stay in prison or a hefty fine, so we definitely do not recommend playing. To be more specific, playing bingo is considered a Class E felony in the state, and jail sentences start at 30 days minimum.

Horse Racing in Tennessee

Licensed sportsbooks are allowed to provide odds on the outcome of horse races, and bettors have a few options in terms of selecting which bookie they want to bet with. TwinSpires, TVG, and BetAmerica all take wagers on horse races in Tennessee, although the lack of action taking place in the state itself has led to something of a decline in popularity since the early days of betting in the state.

Back in the 1800s, horse racing was a popular choice for bettors. Then came the turn of the next century, when, in 1906, horse race wagering was made illegal. Obviously, lawmakers have softened their stance on the matter since then. People must be at least 21 years old to place a wager on horse racing events in TN.

Strangely, horse racing is not specifically mentioned as being legal or illegal in Tennessee’s law. Rather, sportsbooks took a chance and simply started offering odds on races. When they weren’t being punished for doing so, it became common practice.

FAQs

Is online gambling legal in Tennessee?

Yes, but only as online sports betting.

Is online poker legal in Tennessee?

By law, online poker is strictly prohibited from being played in Tennessee.

When did online gambling become legal in Tennessee?

Online sports betting was made legal in May 2019, but it wasn’t until November 2020 that online sportsbooks began onboarding customers.

What is the gambling age in Tennessee?

For the state lottery, the minimum age limit is 18. Sports bettors must be at least 21 years old to place wagers online.

How much revenue does online gambling bring to Tennessee?

In total, online sports betting has garnered over $100million in revenue. Around $20million of that gets put back into the state as tax dollars.

Who regulates online gambling in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Education Lottery regulates all online gambling in the state.

What forms of gambling are allowed in Tennessee?

Right now, online sports betting and state lotteries are the only legal ways to gamble in Tennessee.

Robert Miller

Robert Miller

Robert is responsible for all content on BettingGuide US. Robert previously worked as a poker dealer during his college years at MIT where he studied Computational Science and Engineering. With a great interest in gambling, Robert likes to go in-depth when writing so that you can make a wiser choice when choosing an operator.

Last updated: 8/24/2021