Some Tennessee online sports betting rules face criticism
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Professional sports leagues, players’ unions and major gambling companies are hoping to convince Tennessee officials to tweak proposed rules to their liking for the state’s yet-to-be-implemented sports betting program.
The sports betting company DraftKings, Caesars, Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the PGA Tour, players’ unions for five pro sports leagues, Facebook and others weighed in during the recent public comment period on the draft regulations. The Tennessee Lottery fielded the comments as the regulatory agency for sports betting, which lawmakers approved last year. There’s still no firm timeline for when the first bets can be placed.
Some common critiques emerged in the comments. DraftKings and others voiced opposition to a proposal to make a bet that involves the outcomes of multiple sporting events, known as a parlay, a total loss if just one of the events is a tie. DraftKings said that’s not required “in any other jurisdiction and would be very frustrating for players.”
Caesars was one of many critics of a rule that would cap annual payouts to bettors at 85%, saying it’s “far below the industry standard and could place Tennessee operators at a competitive disadvantage.” The topic was discussed at a mid-January meeting of the Sports Wagering Advisory Council, which is advising the lottery on sports betting.
The PGA Tour, among others, worried that banning bets on “an occurrence determinable by one person or one play” could altogether prohibit bets on individual sports, including golf.
“The PGA TOUR believes that bets on individual players and plays can be legitimately offered, and to broadly prohibit them in the face of market demand will help fuel the illegal market that the state and sports governing bodies are trying to eliminate,” the integrity officer of the PGA Tour wrote.
The lottery could make any changes it deems necessary and vote on the rules as soon as its next board meeting on Feb. 19.
Several groups commented that fees were too pricey for the different levels of licensing. Some, including Facebook, sought to assure they wouldn’t fall under lower-level licensing requirements, since Facebook plans to allow sports betting company advertising.
There was widespread concern over a requirement that advertising and marketing materials be approved 30 days in advance by the lottery, with Caesars saying it’s “logistically impossible” when some game match-ups are not determined very long in advance. The American Gaming Association said that process would be burdensome and impractical.
The NBA’s players association had its own unique suggestion among the comments — that players should receive royalty fees.
There also were a few disagreements: the players’ unions and the MLB, NBA and PGA Tour applauded the law’s requirement for betting firms to use official league data, while the William Hill sports gambling firm expressed concerns, saying a federal court has ruled that that kind of data is public information. Illinois and Michigan also require use of official league data.
William Hill is among the gambling companies that have reached individual deals with leagues to buy their official data.
For most comments, the lottery blocked the identity of who was commenting. In select spots, the organizations’ names were not redacted.
The lottery’s policy is to redact personally identifying information unless it’s required, as in the case of a lottery winner, said Andrew Morin, lottery vice president for legal services for corporate transactions. Morin also said the lottery told people interested in submitting the online comments that their personal identifying information would not be disclosed. Morin did not cite a specific public records exemption in state law.
The redaction prompted concerns from at least one sports betting council member, Thomas Lee, who said he can think of “no good reason” to keep the information from the council, lawmakers or the public. The council also was blocked from seeing the names of people who submitted comments.
“Evaluating comments without knowing who made them is like football with all the players in identical jerseys — it makes the game real hard to follow,” said Lee, a Nashville attorney.