When will we see legalized sports betting in SEC states?

Georgia Bulldog fans

On Tuesday June 5th, the state of Delaware began taking single-game sports wagers just three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled that the nationwide ban on sports betting was unconstitutional. While states like Delaware, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and others have been on the forefront in preparing for the almost inevitable, where are ‘SEC’ states in the race to sports gambling?

What better place to start than the state where I live: Tennessee.

I spoke with incumbent state senator Brian Kelsey, the first politician from the Volunteer state to support sports wagering, about the issue.

“This will not require a constitutional amendment to pass,” Kelsey said when asked about the roadmap to legal sports wagering in Tennessee. “When Tennessee adopted the lottery, that was the case and is a long and arduous process. Sports betting would simply require the passage of a bill, which would be a simple majority in the house and senate when we reconvene in January. My guess is if a bill could pass it would do so in March, maybe April or so [2019].”

While Senator Kelsey is in favor of a bill that would allow sports wagering, there has also been opposition. Governor Bill Haslam, for one, hasn’t given much thought to the Supreme Court’s ruling.

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

Haslam is not alone.

State senator Jon Lundberg and state representative Bud Hulsey do not include Tennessee in the group of states that will soon be allowing legal sports gambling. Lundberg went as far as to say, “not in the foreseeable future.”

While there are Republicans with differing views regarding legalized sports betting in Tennessee, state representative Jason Powell, a Democrat, has expressed support of a bill allowing sports betting. That Democrats and Republicans could both support passage has to be a good sign for those hoping to see sports gambling in Tennessee, right?

“I do think that’s important and that will certainly help in its passage,” Kelsey said. “Tennessee is in the Bible Belt and there are a lot of folks, myself included, who have very serious convictions of faith, and I have heard from some folks who are on that side of the debate, but what I think that means is that this legislation should be crafted to set aside some resources for any people who may find themselves in gambling addiction. The vast majority of people who partake in sports betting do not fall into that category.

“It’s going to be a tough legislative battle to get this thing through in Tennessee and as I’ve said, I want to hear more from citizens across the state over the next several months before January as to whether or not they feel this is a good thing. But so far, the overwhelming response from people has been positive.”

I understand being in the Bible Belt, but if you’re able to go down and purchase a scratch off ticket at the local gas station or play the daily pick three, you should be able to go down the same street and put $20 on the Yankees to win. There is no difference.

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