Tennessee Online Casino Real Money – Gambling Laws in the Volunteer State

Posted by James Guill .

The Tennessee online casino market has seen some significant changes throughout the years. For a long time, only state lottery and limited charitable gambling were available to residents of the state.

Fortunately, the state has started to legalize some forms of online gambling.

Presently, online sports betting and fantasy sports are legal. Online casinos are still not defined by law, making them a legal gray area.

This means that TN residents can play online casino games safely at sites licensed outside the state.

Summary of TN Gambling Laws

online casino tennessee

Tennesee has limited options for legal gambling. Here’s a quick rundown of the legal forms of gaming offered in the state.

GamblingTennessee
Is Online Gambling Legal? Grey Area
Playing at Online Casinos Grey Area
Legal Age Online 21
Land-Based Casinos No
Legal Age Land-Based N/A
Online Sports Betting Yes
Charitable Gambling Yes
State Lottery Yes
Social Gaming Yes

Is Gambling Legal in Tennessee?

Few forms of gambling are explicitly legal in Tennesee. The legal forms are heavily regulated, making the state somewhat “dry” for the average player.

GamblingTennessee Legal Status
Online CasinosThe only forms of online gambling regulated by the state are daily fantasy sports and sports betting. Online casinos, online poker, and ADW, are not addressed by state laws.
Casino GamblingCasino gambling and games that are associated with casinos are illegal. There are no land-based casinos in TN.
PokerPoker is illegal in Tennessee, both live and in home games. Online poker games are not regulated, but they are not explicitly banned.

Poker games, such as bar leagues, are allowed with no money at stake.
Horse Racing BettingHorse racing betting is not currently legal. Off-track betting is also unavailable.
Dog Racing BettingDog racing betting is illegal in Tennessee. The TN Attorney General ruled that the Racing Control Act does not authorize the racing of animals other than horses.
LotteryThe Tennessee Lottery operates in retail locations only. Instant scratch tickets and drawing games like PowerBall, Mega Millions, and Keno are available.
Daily Fantasy SportsDaily Fantasy Sports became legal in 2016. It became the first regulated form of online gambling in the state.

One unique law in Tennessee is that holding “low-level sports entertainment pools,” such as an office pool for March Madness, is legal.
Sports BettingTennessee passed online sports betting in April 2019. Physical sportsbooks remain unregulated, making it one of the three states in the US where only online sports betting is legal (no retail).
Charitable GamingThe state restricts charitable gambling to one event per year for qualifying agencies only. The organization must apply for a permit before running a game.
Social GamingSocial gambling is largely illegal in TN. The only exceptions are games where players do not pay to participate, such as a “casino night” held by the American Legion.

Best Tennessee Online Casinos

Online casinos are presently unregulated in Tennessee, meaning players can still play at licensed out-of-state gambling sites. Here’s a list of some of the best real money online casinos you can find.

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Where to Gamble in Tennessee

tn online casino

With its restrictive gambling laws, it is a challenge to find places to gamble in Tennessee legally.

Here is a breakdown of where you can do so.

Land-Based Casinos

Land-Based Casinos

Tennessee does not have land-based casinos. The possession and operation of gaming machines associated with casinos is considered illegal.

There are no tribal casinos either. The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians purchased land in Sevierville, TN, in 2021, which is seen as a potential move to bring a tribal casino to the state, but this could be years away.

Horse & Dog Tracks

Horse & Dog Tracks

Horse race betting is currently illegal in Tennessee. The only open horse racing track is Percy Warner Park, home of the annual Iroquois Steeplechase. 

Pari-mutuel betting was legalized in 1987 and regulated by the Tennessee State Racing Commission. However, in May 1998, the state legislature filed to renew the Commission, forcing it to cease operations in June.

In 2015, the TN legislature repealed the Racing Control Act of 1987, making pari-mutuel betting illegal. Off-track betting and simulated horse racing were part of modifications to the original Racing Act, so they are also currently illegal. 

Dog racing has never been legal in the Volunteer State. The now-repealed Racing Control Act only applied to horse racing, a fact the State Attorney General confirmed in a memo in 2014.

Online Sports Betting

Online Sports Betting

Online sports betting was legalized in 2019. They were the first state to legalize sports betting only for online use, leaving in-person betting illegal.

The first sportsbooks were launched in November 2020, and players can bet on all college and pro sports. However, betting on high school sports or making prop bets on individual players or teams is illegal.

There are currently 13 licensees for TN sportsbooks.

The only other exception for legalized sports betting in Tennessee is for “low-level sports entertainment pools.” In 2019, the state legislature passed a law allowing for office pools for events like the Super Bowl and March Madness

These pools must be held by individuals and not exceed $1,000. Players can only wager up to $25 into the pool.

Bingo Halls and Charitable Gambling

Bingo Halls

Tennessee has some of the most restrictive charity gambling laws in the country.

Eligible 501(c)(3) and 501(c)(19) organizations can hold a single “game of chance” fundraising event per year, and they must apply for the permit from July 1st through January 31st of the year before holding the event. 

The only types of charitable gambling allowed are bingo, raffles, reverse raffles, cake wheels, and cakewalks. 

There are also restrictions on who can purchase tickets for such events. 

Social Gaming at Home

Social Gaming

Gaming that involves the wagering of money or anything of value is illegal. 

The only forms of social gambling that are allowed are those where players do not have to pay to participate, such as a bar poker league. It is okay if an event has an ultimate prize, such as a bingo jackpot or a winner-takes-all prize. 

However, any social game offered must not require any form of buy-in from the player, and money is not allowed to be wagered. 

Poker Rooms and Clubs

Poker Rooms and Clubs

Poker for real money play is illegal. No casinos or poker rooms are operating in Tennessee.

Social poker games are also illegal if they involve the wagering of money. Free-play poker games, such as bar leagues, are legal, provided the player has no buy-in and wagers do not involve money.

Online poker is not defined in TN law, making it a grey area in legal law. This means that Tennesseans can play at out-of-state online poker rooms.

Eight-Liners

Eight-Liners

Eight-liners are explicitly illegal in Tennessee. It is unlawful to own or operate an illegal gambling machine.

The Volunteer State bans any machine that could be associated with casinos. 

Casino Cruises

Casino Cruises

Tennessee is a landlocked state and does not offer casino cruises. However, Tennesseans can travel to states like Virginia or Florida that offer cruises with casinos onboard.

Real Money Online Casino Tennessee – Games You Can Play

real money online casino tennessee

While brick-and-mortar casino gaming is illegal in Tennessee, online gambling is still a grey area. You can still legally play at licensed and reputable online casinos. Let’s look at some of the casino games you can find in the web.

Online Slots

Online Slots

Online poker rooms will offer a large selection of cash games and poker tournaments. Texas Hold ’em is the most popular variant, with Omaha Poker a close second.

Other forms of poker include Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, Lowball Poker, and Short Deck Texas Hold ’em.

Poker tournaments are the biggest draw at most poker rooms, as they have massive guaranteed prize pools. 

Online Poker

Online Poker

Online poker rooms will offer a large selection of cash games and poker tournaments. Texas Hold ’em is the most popular variant, with Omaha Poker a close second.

Other forms of poker include Seven Card Stud, Five Card Draw, Lowball Poker, and Short Deck Texas Hold ’em.

Poker tournaments are the biggest draw at most poker rooms, as they have massive guaranteed prize pools.

Blackjack

Blackjack

Almost all gambling sites offer a standard version of blackjack. Many also provide popular variants like Double Exposure Blackjack, Perfect Pairs Blackjack, Multi-hand Blackjack, and Pontoon.

Online blackjack games are a great way to learn and improve your strategy. Another prime benefit is that games are available 24/7 and offer lower stakes than you can find at brick-and-mortar casinos.

Live Dealer Games

Live Dealer

Live dealer casinos are perfect for TN residents. These sites offer the whole casino experience on your screen. 

Most TN online casinos offer a library of live dealer games from developers like Visionary iGaming, Fresh Deck Studios, and BetGames.

You’ll find traditional games like blackjack and roulette with a human dealer with whom you can interact. Some games also let you interact with other players. 

Other Available Games at Tennessee Online Casinos

Another advantage of playing at TN online casinos is that you can access a wider variety of games than brick-and-mortar casinos.

This gives you access to games like Keno, Bingo, craps, baccarat, roulette, instant scratch games, and casual games for real money like Solitaire and Heads or Tails.

Top Bonuses at Gambling Sites for Tennessee Players

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Tennessee Online Gambling Laws

Generally, land-based gambling is considered illegal in Tennessee. This statement covers any form of game that could be associated with casinos. 

There are a handful of clearly defined exemptions under state law, such as the Tennessee Lottery.

For internet gambling, TN law only regulates sports betting and fantasy sports. Online casinos fall into a grey area.

Is Online Gambling Legal in Tennessee?

Online Gambling

Tennessee law currently regulates two forms of online gambling: online sports betting and online fantasy sports.

Otherwise, other forms of online gambling are undefined in state laws, basically falling into a legal grey area.

TN law does not criminalize playing at casinos licensed out-of-state. For this reason, Tennesseans can gamble safely at offshore casinos, poker rooms, and ADR sites

Gambling Covers Any Game Associated With Casinos

Gambling

Tennessee Code 39-17-501 defines gambling as risking anything of value for a profit on a game whose return has any element of chance.

This effectively eliminates skill games such as poker and certain slot-type skill games you see in some states.

Interestingly, it also mentions that “any games of chances associated with casinos.”

It is a very broad definition that has effectively made all forms of live gambling illegal.

Owning Gambling Devices and Promoting Gambling Is Illegal

Gambling Devices

According to TN code 39-17-505, it’s prohibited to own, lease, rent, or distribute gambling devices.

The only exceptions are if the devices are being used for a licensed annual charity gambling event or if the devices are antique coin machines.

Antique coin machines must be 25 years old or older and not used for gambling.

Next, Tennessee has a couple of interesting casino promotion laws. The first states that promoting a game is illegal if the promoter gets a financial benefit. 

However, it is also illegal for a participant to promote a game if they have a greater advantage over other players, such as a professional poker player.

The offense is a Class B misdemeanor, according to section 39-17-503 of the Tennessee Code.

Chain Letters, Pyramid Clubs, and Lotteries Are Illegal

Illegal

Tennessee has some unique inclusions in its gambling laws.

It makes chain letters, pyramid clubs, and non-state-regulated lotteries illegal. 

For example, a chain letter that asks you to send money to five people on a list is illegal. A raffle or similar lottery-style game is unlawful. Pyramid clubs, such as multi-level marketing schemes, are also prohibited

The offense has four levels based on how much money the illegal activity collects.

It ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony if the amount collected is $10,000 or more.

Forms of Gambling Legal Under Tennessee Law

Gambling Legal

Besides lawful business transactions, TN law only defines five exemptions for its gambling laws.

Below are the forms of gambling explicitly exempted under state law:

  • Annual gambling events benefit non-profit organizations
  • State lottery 
  • Fantasy sports contests
  • Sports betting under the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act
  • Low-level sports entertainment pools

Conflicting Views on Pari-mutuel Legality

Pari-mutuel Legality

You may see conflicting views on the legality of pari-mutuel and off-track betting in Tennessee.

Some websites, including legal websites, claim that off-track-betting and simulcast racing are legal in the state.

Pari-mutuel betting was legalized in 1987, and simulcast off-track betting was legalized in 1996.

However, after the state legislature failed to renew the State Racing Commission in 1998, the Commission shut down. 

In 2015, the state legislature repealed the Racing Control Act of 1987.

This removed all regulatory structures for pari-mutuel betting and off-track betting. Multiple attempts have been made to revive it, but all have failed.

Advanced Deposit Wagering (ADW) is listed as legalized in the state on some sites, but the last attempt to legislate the activity failed to advance to a Senate vote

There are no current laws in Tennessee regulating either activity. Any claims or legal citations in other sources likely cite the repealed Racing Control Act or are basing claims over multiple bills that failed to pass.

ADW is still a grey area. Bills to regulate the activity have failed, but it is not explicitly listed as an illegal activity. There are a couple of out-of-state ADW sites that Tennesseans can legally play at. However, these are for out-of-state races only.

*Please be advised that the information provided on this page does not constitute legal advice. Our team strongly recommends you seek professional counsel from a qualified attorney regarding your specific questions or concerns on the topic.

Tennessee Online Gambling vs. Neighboring States

With Tennessee located in the bible belt of the United States, it’s not surprising that it has restrictive gambling laws.

Here’s how the state stacks up compared to its neighbors.

US StatePlaying at Online CasinosState Regulated CasinosSocial CasinosOnline Sports BettingLotteryFantasy SportsCharitable Gaming
Tennessee Gray Area Illegal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Alabama Illegal Illegal Legal Illegal Illegal Legal Legal
Arkansas Gray Area Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Georgia Gray Area Illegal Legal Illegal Legal Gray Area Legal
Kentucky Gray Area Illegal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Mississippi Illegal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal
Missouri Gray Area Legal Legal Pending Legislation Legal Legal Legal
North Carolina Illegal Legal – Tribal Casinos Legal Pending Legislation Legal Legal Legal
Virginia Gray Area Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal Legal

Four of Tennessee’s neighbors offer state-regulated or tribal casinos, and all but three offer legal sports betting. Alabama is the most restrictive of all neighboring states, only offering legal fantasy sports and social casinos.

While once one of the more conservative, Virginia has become one of the more liberal gambling states

Not surprisingly, North Carolina, Mississippi, and Alabama all have laws prohibiting online casino gaming. All other states are currently in a legal grey area, meaning the citizens of those states can access gambling sites licensed outside of the state.

Tennessee Online Casino – Tips to Play Safely

Since Tennessee has yet to regulate online casinos. For now, your only option is to play at offshore sites. If you are new to internet gambling, there are a few things you need to know.

Here are our tips for playing safely at online casinos.

Only Gamble at Licensed Casinos

Licensed Casinos

Only play at casinos with a license from a primary online regulator like the Curacao Gaming Control Board or the Malta Gaming Authority.

Licensed sites adhere to industry standards, such as using certified random number generators and requiring player verification to prevent fraud.

Avoid Casino With Consistent Complaints from Tennesseans

Avoid Casino With Complaints

Research any casino you’re considering playing at.

Look for reviews from other Tennesseans and pay careful attention to patterns of feedback, especially negative feedback. 

Use Secure Payment Options

Payment Options

The best Tennessee online casinos offer secure payment options like credit cards, e-wallets, and cryptocurrency.

Using secure payment options helps to weed out rouge casinos that may try to steal your deposits.

Review Software Providers

Review Software Providers

Not all software providers are created equal.

Look for casinos that offer top-rated providers like BetSoft, RealTime Gaming, Nucleus, and DiceLab.

Top-rated operators are typically licensed in multiple jurisdictions, adding extra protection to your gaming.

Practice Responsible Gambling

Responsible Gambling

Gambling should be viewed as entertainment.

As such, you should practice responsible gambling habits like setting time and deposit limits and controlling how much you spend.

Most casinos offer tools that assist in setting limits on your play.

Pros & Cons of Gambling in Tennessee

Tennessee is one of the driest states for gambling in the United States.

Fortunately, there are still a couple of options for legal gaming, including online sports betting.

Pros

  • Online sports betting is legal.
  • Fantasy sports are legal.
  • Tennessee Lottery is available (Retail only).
  • Low-level sports entertainment pools are legal.
  • Tennesseans can safely gamble at online casinos and poker rooms.

Cons

  • No state-regulated casinos or poker rooms.
  • Home games for money are illegal.
  • Restrictive rules for charitable gambling.

Future of Online Gambling in Tennessee: Our Prediction

The state has taken hard stances against casino gambling and sports betting in the past, so it was surprising when the state legalized online sports betting.

While the passage of online sports betting was promising, it is not necessarily a precursor to online casino regulation.

Presently, it appears that lawmakers and private citizens are more interested in resurrecting its pari-mutuel market. Multiple attempts have been made in recent years, and more are expected in the future.

Tennessee has historically been slow to move regarding gambling, and we expect this trend to continue. In the short term, the only change we expect to see will be for pari-mutuel betting.

Unless regulated online casino gaming becomes a trend nationwide, we don’t see Tennesee addressing the issue for many years. Offshore casinos will serve TN residents for the foreseeable future.

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James Guill

James Guill is a former professional poker player who writes fro GambleOnline.co about poker, sports, casinos, gaming legislation and the online gambling industry in general. His past experience includes working with IveyPoker, PokerNews, PokerJunkie, Bwin, and the Ongame Network. From 2006-2009 he participated in multiple tournaments including the 37th and 38th World Series of Poker (WSOP). James lives in Virginia and he has a side business where he picks and sells vintage and antique items.

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