Tennessee, A State With Spartan Gambling Offerings, Considers Legalizing Casinos

Written By Jessica Welman on February 14, 2017 - Last Updated on February 19, 2017
Tennessee casinos possibility

Tennessee is one of the more conservative states when it comes to gambling. There is a state lottery and daily fantasy sports (DFS), but no racetracks and no casinos.

That could change thanks to a new bill introduced by five Democratic state representatives.

New casino bill called HJR 0109

The bill is known as House Joint Resolution 109.

It is a relatively short bill with a singular action, which is to replace language in the law offering state lotteries with new language which would allow for casino and games of chance in the state.

Tennessee began offering a lottery in 2003.

For years, Tennessee has been surrounded by states offering casinos. Tunica, Mississippi and Harrah’s Cherokee are just a couple of the gaming venues a short drive from the Tennessee border.

The resolution does not propose a framework or offer locations where casinos might be located. It is not the only state with minimal gambling considering expansion this year.

Hawaii recently introduced legislation to possibly offer online gambling. A state senator in New Hampshire recently re-introduced his proposal to allow casinos in the state as well.

State passed DFS legislation last year

In April of last year, Tennessee became the third state to explicitly legalize and regulate DFS. The law was somewhat surprising given that the attorney general of Tennessee wrote an opinion on DFS stating he interpreted it to be illegal.

The regulations also stipulated for a relatively low six percent taxation and no substantial licensing fee.

Tennessee tourism is booming

Tennessee tourism is a growing industry. The state generated $18 billion in 2015. Thanks to that revenue, $1.6 billion of that money went to the state in the form of taxes.

Compared to 2014, the 2015 numbers saw overall revenue grow by five percent and tax revenue grow by five percent.

The state’s two major cities, Nashville and Memphis, are both considered national music destinations. Artists Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley each built their own cottage industries within the state.

Attractions like the Smokey Mountains also bring people to the state.

The tourism stats indicate Nashville is the biggest destination in the state in addition to the most populous area. The nearest casino to Nashville is actually two states away.

Those seeking gambling need to drive over two hours across Kentucky into Illinois to get to the relatively small Metropolis, IL casinos.

Memphis is located less than an hour from Tunica, MS. That casino destination has struggled in recent years. Harrah’s Casino closed its doors in June of 2014. The area currently has a 30 percent poverty rate.

Casinos are failing to draw in as much money as in previous years and the structure of the taxation revenue stream has been criticized for not directing enough funds towards social programs in the area.

It is unclear if the state would locate the casinos in proximity to the major cities or locate them in an area with a larger tourism influence like Pigeon Forge or Gatlinburg.

Image credit: Nagel Photography / Shutterstock, Inc.

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Jessica Welman

Jessica Welman has worked as a tournament reporter for the World Poker Tour, co-hosted a podcast for Poker Road, and served as the managing editor for WSOP.com. A graduate of Indiana University and USC, Welman is not only a writer but also a producer. She can be found on Twitter @jesswelman.

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