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Tennessee Bettors Welcome Back NFL Season With Record September Bets

Written By Derek Helling on October 19, 2023
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Tennessee’s licensed sportsbooks look forward to the return of NFL regular-season games from April through August each year. The advent of those contests in 2023 was anything but a disappointment in 2023.

Bettors using those books in Tennessee gambled more this year than in any prior September. Due to the state’s nascent tax structure, Tennessee’s share of that money wasn’t as historic.

Bettors gamble their way to September record in Tennessee

During September 2023, regulated sportsbooks took in more money in Tennessee than in that month in any prior year, and it wasn’t close. The $420 million in bets was a 19.8% increase from September 2022 and a 38.7% uptick from September 2021. Legal sports wagering started in Tennessee in November 2020.

To put September’s betting total in further context, Tennessee bettors have only gambled more money in a month twice so far. December 2022 still stands as the single-month record at $440.4 million. November 2022 is a close second with $439.4 million.

After allowing for deductions permitted under Tennessee law, the state assessed its privilege fees on a betting total of $418 million for September 2023. Under Tennessee’s newly installed tax structure, the state didn’t do as well as it has in previous months.

Tax revenue falls in a new format

According to the Tennessee Sports Wagering Council (TSWC), the state assessed just over $7.7 million in privilege fees for September’s sports wagering activity. September was the second month under the state’s new tax structure.

In that format, Tennessee assesses a 1.85% fee on the amount of money wagered. Tennessee is the only US state that taxes sports betting based on how much money books take in bets. Most others assess fees based on the amount of money that books actually win from bettors.

That was how Tennessee did it as well before the recent change, at a rate of 20%. In August, Tennessee’s revenue for sports betting showed an annual decline in tax dollars for the state. The same is true for September.

In September 2022, Tennessee took over $8.7 million in tax dollars. However, simply comparing the two months’ tax sums is an oversimplification. It’s still too early to say whether Tennessee made the right move.

Unknowns complicate the tax situation

Getting a better idea of whether Tennessee would have collected more tax revenue in September 2023 under the old system requires some missing information. That is how much of the $440 million in bets the sportsbooks won during the month.

The TSWC no longer shares that information publicly as it’s no longer relevant under the current tax structure. Forming a simple estimate guides the conversation, however. During September 2022 and September 2021, Tennessee sportsbooks won an average of 11.8% of the money they took in.

Two months is a small sample size, but it’s the only available data to this point. Assuming that books won that amount of September 2023’s total, that would put win for the books at $51.9 million. A 20% cut of that would be around $10.3 million.

That suggests Tennessee might have lost out on some money for the second consecutive month. However, several variables could change that situation. Without further data, it’s difficult to make any definitive statements.

So far, though, it seems Tennessee might need to continue its experiment in maximizing tax revenue from sports betting.

Photo by Wade Payne / AP Photo
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Derek Helling

Derek Helling is the assistant managing editor of PlayUSA. Helling focuses on breaking news, including finance, regulation, and technology in the gaming industry. Helling completed his journalism degree at the University of Iowa and resides in Chicago

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