Tennessee lawmakers drag their feet on updating sports betting laws
A pair of bills that prevent consumers take out high-interest, high-risk loans and open sports betting accounts at the same place were on the agenda of Senate and House committees on Tuesday, but no action has yet been taken. A second set of bills has been approved and is moving forward in the House.
HB 1267 would essentially deprive the Tennessee Education Lottery Board of Directors of any power over the regulation and enforcement of sports betting. It would entrust these responsibilities to the Sports Betting Advisory Council, composed of nine members.
“This allows the Sports Betting Advisory Council to be autonomous and to act within its jurisdiction outside of the current TELC,” Bill sponsor John Gillespie said in brief remarks.
The House Departments and Agencies subcommittee voted to advance the amended version of HB 1267. The bill now goes to the State Government Committee in the House. In the Senate, SB 588 heads to the State and Local Government Committee, where it is on the agenda for April 13. This is the date of the final meetings of the two committees this session.
TELC is currently mired in a legal battle with one of its licensed sportsbooks, TN Action 24/7. TELC’s sports betting committee issued a suspension against the local operator in a random hearing before March Madness, but the bookmaker was able to get it lifted by win an injunction in class.
Amendment reverses script
The original bills required TELC’s Sports Betting Advisory Council to meet jointly with the lottery board to set rules and hold hearings, and they would have allowed the board and the board of directors to call special meetings rather than just the board, as is currently the law. But the new amendment goes further, as it appears to reverse the roles of advisory board and council. Previously, the council offered its support to the council, but according to the new amendment, it would be the council that would help the council.
The corporation must promulgate bylaws to implement this section, subject to council approval.
SECTION 3. Annotated Tennessee Code, Section 4-51-305 (a), is amended by deleting the paragraph and replacing the following instead:
(a) A Sports Betting Advisory Council is hereby established to apply this Part and oversee compliance with laws relating to the regulation and control of betting on sporting events in this State. The Board, its employees and its staff shall assist the Board in carrying out its functions under this paragraph (a) at the discretion of the Board.
The Sports Betting Advisory Council is an appointed nine-member group made up of law enforcement officials, lawyers and business leaders in Tennessee. Council members were appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and leadership of the House and Senate in 2019. The idea of giving more power to the council is not new – a a similar bill has been considered during the legislative session of 2020 but did not reach the finish line.
Bills are expected to leave committee next week and end up on the floors of the House and Senate for a chance to get through this session. The Tennessee General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn April 30.
Blocked responsible gambling invoices
SB 1029 and HB 884 are the bills that responsible gaming experts watch carefully. The bills would prohibit consumers from funding and withdrawing from a 24/7 Action sports game account and opening a so-called “flexible loan” in the same place, which is a practice that can now occur. The concern with the legislation is that the borrowed money could be used for gambling.
Previously, the bookmaker’s “partner” Advance Financial, a lender of high-interest loans of up to 279.5% per annum, distributed flyers advertising the bookmaker, a practice she says she has now stopped.
Bills have been on the committee agenda for several weeks with no action yet. The sponsor of the House bill, Representative Darren Jernigan, said Tuesday that he would withdraw the bill, stating that “there will be an amendment in the Senate bill.” They will continue to run it. If it goes over there, I can talk about it next year.
“Sports betting regulators and law enforcement are still investigating ‘significant anomalies’ in two books for the Super Bowl.”
I had not seen this. What am I missing?
Over 70 Sports Betting Accounts In TN Closed Due To Illegal Super Bowl Betting https://t.co/TZqme9tUBt
– Alfonso Straffon 🇨🇷🇺🇸🇲🇽 (@astraffon) February 20, 2021
Tennessee Action 24/7, which is currently in a legal battle with the Tennessee educational lottery on illegal financial transactions occurring on its platform, had its license temporarily suspended last month. Sources say the company has hired several lobbyists to fight the bill, which is problem gambling advocate Brianne Doura-Schawhol of Epic Risk Management. testified in favor during a Senate hearing last month.
“Any suggestion that gambling is a way to pay off a loan, make money or solve financial problems is predatory,” she said at the time. “It is never advisable to gamble with borrowed money. This act of gambling with loaned funds is not only a red flag by experts, but remains one of the nine criteria listed for gambling addiction in DSM V. ”
While another Senate amendment the bill was introduced, lawmakers refused to act on it. The amendment would require companies like Action 24/7 and Advance Financial to maintain customer databases, which would then have to be crossed when a customer wants to open a new account, whether for sports betting or a loan. Under the proposed amendment, the penalty for offering both to a client is suspension, license revocation and a fine of up to $ 25,000.