Tennessee Casinos, Gambling, and Law Regulations: An Overview

Tennessee has some of the most stringent laws on gambling in all of the South. The state that has given the world country music and Elvis Presley has failed to let its citizens enjoy good old gambling. According to the Tennessee Code, all forms of gambling are prohibited except the state lottery and charitable gaming that must take place under strict conditions. Thus, Tennessee certainly is not one of the friendliest states when gambling is concerned.

In this article, we are going to talk more about the gambling laws and regulations in power in Tennessee, as well as what forms of gambling are still at your disposal when in Tennessee.

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Gambling Laws in Tennessee — The Law Overview

Gambling in Tennessee is clearly defined under title 17, chapter 39, of the Tennessee Code which sees gambling as “contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like.”

According to the law, the only exception to the regulation refers to the state lottery and charitable gambling. The state lottery and its regulations are defined under title 4, chapter 51 of the Tennessee Code. Here, we can see that at least 50% of all proceeds from the lottery must go to funding educational programs and social projects in the state.

Charitable gaming takes place under the provisions of the Nonprofit Gaming Law in Tennessee which allows organizations, as seen by the IRS under chapters 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19), to host one event per year. Even social gaming is prohibited, so there will be no home poker games in the Volunteer State.

Pari-mutuel betting on horse racing has been working for more than three decades under the jurisdiction of the State Horse Racing Advisory Committee and pursuant to title 4, chapter 36 of the Tennessee Code that was repealed in 2015. There are currently no race tracks in Tennessee. However, residents of Tennessee are allowed to participate in off-track online betting on horse races from other states within the USA that have legal horse betting.

Another recent change in the law occurred when daily fantasy sports were allowed in 2016. The bill was shepherded by the State Attorney General Herbert Slatery who made it possible for players from Tennessee to take part in real money daily fantasy contests.

In 2019, new changes loomed and came to fruition with the H1 Bill which allowed online sports betting in Tennessee. First online sportsbooks are expected in 2020, pending the licensing procedure that will most likely be performed by the Tennessee State Lottery that will be put in charge of the industry. The reason why only online sports betting is going to be allowed is that there are no land-based casinos to host sportsbooks in the first place.

Tennessee Code Statutes

The penalties for participation in unlawful gambling are clearly defined in the Tennessee Code. Engaging in illegal gambling is a Class C misdemeanor that entails a prison sentence up to 30 days and a fine of up to $500. However, if a person “knowingly invests in, finances, owns, controls, supervises, manages or participates in a gambling enterprise,” that person is involved in “gambling promotion.” Gambling promotion is labeled as a Class E felony punishable by one to six years in prison, as well as a fine of up to $3,000.

The minimum gambling age is 18.

Are There Any Forms of Gambling Allowed in Tennessee?

The only forms of gambling allowed are lottery games by the Tennessee State Lottery, charitable gaming, off-track pari-mutuel wagering on horse racing, and daily fantasy contests. The lottery offers both interstate lotteries with huge jackpot lottery draws like Powerball and Mega Millions and state lotteries such as state drawings like Cash 3 and Cash 4. There is also a score of instant games like scratch cards you can use.

Charitable gaming can only include sanctioned games such as raffles, reverse raffles, cakewalks, and cake wheels, while bingo or any other type of casino game is strictly prohibited.

Thanks to such a broad definition of gambling in Tennessee that includes “risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, not including lawful business transactions.”, we can safely say that online gambling is banned. However, daily fantasy sports contents and betting on horse racing are allowed and take place over the web. The future legal sportsbooks will facilitate wagering on professional sports as well, which will broaden the scope of online gambling in Tennessee.

In the meantime, players can continue to play on offshore gambling sites, as no provision of the law explicitly bans them, and no one has ever been persecuted for playing in offshore online casinos.

Where to Gamble in Tennessee?

Since there are no casinos in Tennessee, the safe bet for players would be to go to neighboring Mississippi that has plenty of casino gambling options. Also, Missouri is a place where most players from Tennessee go to when in want of some fun and games. The state records from Mississippi say that gamblers from Tennessee account for 10 percent of all gambling income in Mississippi’s coffers.

FAQ

Is it legal to gamble in Tennessee?

In Tennessee, you can legally gamble on lottery games, charitable gaming, off-track online wagering on horse racing, and daily fantasy sports contests. Betting on sports is expected to come to life in Tennessee in 2020.

What is the minimum gambling age for allowed forms of gambling?

The minimum gambling age in Tennessee is 18.

Is online gambling legal in Tennessee?

You will legally gamble online in Tennessee if you are wagering on horse racing staged by the legal race tracks across the USA or playing daily fantasy sports games. All other forms of gambling online are either banned or not clearly defined, which leaves them in a gray area.

Where should players from Tennessee go to gamble legally?

Players from Tennessee can go to neighboring Missouri and Mississippi to participate in legal casino gambling.

What games are offered by the Tennessee State Lottery?

The Tennessee State Lottery offers lottery draws, keno, and scratch cards.