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Why should Tennessee wait on sports betting?

Johnson City Press • May 20, 2018 at 7:15 AM

Betting on sports has become a very lucrative pastime in this country. Officials with the American Gaming Association estimate more than $4.76 billion in legal and illegal bets were placed on this year’s Super Bowl.

Of that amount, just 93 percent of those bets were legal.

It is estimated that more than $57 million worth of bets are placed during the regular NFL season. Most of these illegal wagers are made digitally on offshore betting sites.

The U.S Supreme Court handed down a decision last week that removes a federal ban on single-game betting in most of the United States. Nevada is currently the only state with legal single-game wagering.

The high court’s ruling on Christie v. National Collegiate Athletic Association overturns the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992, which opens the door for other states to get in on a piece of the action.

New Jersey is one of 18 states that pushed to eliminate the federal prohibition on sports betting with the idea of placing state and local taxes on sports wagering. On the other side was the NCAA, National Basketball League, National Football League and Major League Baseball, who argued the ban was “necessary to protect the integrity of their games.”

The American Gaming Association believes the amount of money wagered on sports annually will continue to grow, so why not legalize and tax sports betting in Tennessee with the stipulation that all the revenue collected go exclusively to help fund education?

Sooner or later, Tennessee lawmakers will seize on this idea. It’s bound to happen in a cash-starved state that relies primarily on a sales tax to fill its coffers. But judging by the reaction of local legislators to the idea of legal sports betting, it will probably be later.

“Not in the foreseeable future,” state Sen. Lundberg, R-Bristol, told the Kingsport Times News last week.

Why wait? Why should Tennessee wait while other states get in front of the line to implement what is bound to be an inevitable revenue source?

Why wait to implement the rules needed make sure sports wagering in Tennessee does not prey on the poor and uninformed? Why wait to formulate the regulations needed to protect high school sports from the unsavory elements of professional wagering?

And why wait to develop a plan to allocate tax revenues generated by legal betting for much-needed educational programs in K-12 and higher education?

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