State Rep. Rick Staples of Knoxville proposes legalized sports betting

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - A state representative from Knoxville has authored a bill that would legalize sports betting in Tennessee.

House Representative and Assistant Minority Leader Rick Staples (D-Knoxville) filed Bill HB0001, also known as the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act, for introduction on Wednesday, November 7.

The Tennessee Sports Gambling Act would legalize sports betting in local jurisdictions that approve sports betting by a local election. This means even if it is approved by the state, it would still have to be approved community-by-community via referendum similar to recent local votes on wine being sold in grocery stores.

"Sports betting books would be set up in any bar or restaurant that wants to attach themselves to anyone in the industry as long as they pay the state business tax business fees to set that up. Also it could be set up by third parties that are in the arenas that the professional teams are in. This allows beyond that $2.2 million. They would make a lot of money in taxes collected by having this in local bars or restaurants. And once again those local dollars are going to road improvements, infrastructure and schools so the dollars coming into the locals are earmarked,"
said Staples.

If approved, the bill would impose a 10 percent tax on revenue from sports betting. Forty percent of the gambling tax would go the Tennessee general fund, 30 percent to Tennessee community colleges and applied technology schools, and the remaining 30 percent would go to local governments for education and infrastructure.

Staples told ESPN that the bill could be amended later to include an "opt out" for colleges that request one.

Staples isn't the only one to express support for legalized sports betting in Tennessee. In May, Republican State Senator Brian Kelsey tweeted that he plans to introduce legislation to legalize and tax sports gambling.

Governor-elect Bill Lee voiced his opposition to legalized sports gambling on the campaign trail.

“I think the lottery shows and has had the most negative effect on the lowest-income citizens in our state, and I think that would have the same effect with sports betting. That’s why I’ve been opposed to it,”
Lee said during a gubernatorial debate in Nashville.

The bill will have to be formally filed after the Tennessee legislative session convenes on January 8, 2019. Staples told ESPN if the bill is passed it would go into effect on July 1, 2019.