Gaming Laws in Tennessee
Without question, Tennessee has some of the harshest laws against gambling in the entire United States. The act of gambling is defined in the state of Tennessee in section 39-17-501 of the Tennessee Code as “risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos.”
If you are caught gambling in the state of Tennessee, you could be charged with a Class C misdemeanor that includes a fine of up to $50. Penalties against bookmakers and gambling operations are much harsher, being charged as a Class E felony that could carry up to $10000 in fines and up to six years in prison.
By defining gambling as profiting on something “whose return is to any degree contingent on chance”, even events that are skill-related such as fishing or bowling tournaments are technically illegal as there are some elements of luck involved in these events.
Tennessee was the last of the United States to vote in a lottery, doing so in 2003 when it formed the Tennessee State Lottery. The state's public stance on this was that the lottery isn't immoral like other forms of gambling because the money goes towards educating children.
Sports Betting in Tennessee
Sports gambling is explicitly illegal in Tennessee. It falls under Tennessee's definition of gambling which include placing anything of value on an event in which chance is involved. Betting in Tennessee is a Class C misdemeanor. Bookmaking is also illegal and seriously regulated in a state that has a strong anti-gambling stance.
For residents of Tennessee that want to place wagers on sports, the only realistic option is to do so online. Fortunately, there are no laws on the book that mention online gambling specifically as illegal, so there are no additional fines or penalties for betting on sports online than there would be for being caught gambling offline.
Despite Tennessee's stingy laws against gambling many offshore sportsbooks still accept Tennessee residents - the reason for this being that sportsbooks located in other countries do not fall under the jurisdiction of state or federal laws in the United States. This gives bettors the freedom to make their own decisions when it comes to gambling.
Bettors in Tennessee must weigh the pros and cons of gambling and make a decision on their own. The penalties against betting are not too severe, but they should still be understood.
Poker and Casino in Tennessee
There are no brick and mortar casinos anywhere in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee is one of the last remaining states to have no casino gambling at all with no commercial or tribal casinos located anywhere in the state. Included in the lack of casinos across the state is the lack of any poker rooms. Tennessee residents that want to partake in land-based casino gambling or poker must travel out of state to neighboring states to do so.
Poker players in the state of Tennessee are forced to turn to illegal house games or the much safer option of online poker at offshore poker rooms to play the game. The game of poker would clearly fall under the umbrella of illegal gambling in Tennessee that includes wagering on any game in which chance is involved. But there are no additional laws in the Tennessee Code that specifically mention poker or online gaming anywhere.
Reputable offshore poker rooms have proven to be a reliable option for those that want to play the game that they enjoy despite being unable to do so in the state in which they live. Many online poker rooms still accept Tennessee residents.
Other Gaming Options in Tennessee
Virtually the only legal gaming option in the state of Tennessee is the Tennessee Lottery. Tennessee became the last state in the nation to approve a state lottery in 2003 and officially started selling tickets in 2004.
Like states throughout the country, Tennessee offers scratch card lottery in addition to weekly draws including the Cash 3, Cash 4, Tennessee Cash and Hot Lotto. Tennessee joined the multi-state Powerball in 2004 when it legalized lottery, and also joined the Mega Millions in 2009.
For gamblers in Tennessee, the Tennessee Lottery is as good as it gets offline.