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Tenn. should study financial impact of sports gambling

Editorial Board • Jun 5, 2018 at 10:04 AM

When the U.S. Supreme Court by a 6-3 vote recently announced a decision to enable more states to make money off sports gambling, Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam and a couple of local lawmakers were not impressed.

“That would obviously have to go through the legislature. … It’s not something I would focus on,” Haslam, a Republican, said during a stop in Blountville.

State Sen. Jon Lundberg and state Rep. Bud Hulsey didn’t think Tennessee would be in the mix of about 30 states looking to legally get into the sports gambling business.

“No. Not in the foreseeable future,” said Lundberg, R-Bristol. “We haven’t talked about sports betting. … I haven’t seen any major push or initiative at all.”

Lundberg noted that state Sen. Frank Niceley, R-Strawberry Plains, filed legislation in the last legislative session to set up a Tennessee Horse Racing Commission to regulate parimutuel wagering in the state, but the bill did not move forward.

Hulsey, R-Kingsport, agreed he doesn’t see sports gambling happening with the GOP-controlled legislature.

“You may have a portion of folks who may be OK with that, but I don’t think the majority of the legislature would support that,” Hulsey pointed out. “The way it is right now, I don’t think so.”

We think the legislature at least needs to do a fiscal review of what it would cost to set up a structure to regulate sports gambling and what would be the potential revenues from it.

Currently, sports gambling under federal law is allowed only in Nevada and a few other exceptions, but the bucket of money looks big.

Of the $58 billion wagered last year on NFL and college football games, $56 billion was bet illegally through bookies or online operations, according to Nevada Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, a Democrat, in her remarks on “The Future of Sports Betting.”

And that’s just football. Under the Supreme Court decision, sports gambling could take many forms.

People could bet on balls and strikes and even fishing.

State lawmakers have their own think tank, the Tennessee Advisory Commission on Intergovernmental Relations, that could study this. The legislature also has a Fiscal Review Office that calculates the fiscal impact of legislation.

The resources are there to see if sports gambling in Tennessee is a good or bad bet.

The money from sports gambling is going to go somewhere. State lawmakers at least need to see if it’s worth bringing that cash to Tennessee.

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