Betting is up in Tennessee, but receipts are down – a lot

Published 6:28 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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Tennessee collected $1 million less in taxes on sports gambling in September despite an $83 million increase in overall gross wagers in the state compared to September 2022.

The difference is a tax change that began in July where the state now has a 1.85% tax on total handle instead of the previous 20% tax on the sportsbooks’ adjusted gross income.

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In September, the state saw $420 million in gross wagers compared to $337 million in gross wagers in 2022.

In August, the difference was less pronounced as it collected $400,000 less in taxes than a year before despite a $37.6 million increase in wagers for the month.

The new system of Tennessee’s Sports Wagering Council reporting prevents the public from comparing the new taxing structure to what would have been collected under the previous format.

SWC Executive Director Mary Beth Thomas noted at Wednesday’s board meeting the state has collected more taxes in 2023 to this point compared to 2022 but said “we are still looking to see how our taxes are shaping up for this year” after the taxing structure change.

For the first six months of 2023, the state collected more in taxes under the old system than it would have collected under the new system.

Of the sports gambling taxes, 80% goes to education, 15% goes to the state for distribution to local governments and 5% goes toward mental health programs.

Some of those taxes go to the Lottery for Education program, which received $65.7 million from sports wagering last year. The tax funds going from sports wagering to the HOPE scholarship were consistently rising before the tax change.

Thomas said that the SWC will present future revenue estimates at the Nov. 6 revenue estimating meeting of Tennessee’s State Funding Board.

The SWC voted to renew the operator licenses for BetMGM, DraftKings, FanDuel and Action 24/7 to continue to operate in Tennessee at Wednesday’s meeting.