Tennessee gambling laws are among the most restrictive in the United States. While Utah and Hawaii surpass Tennessee in banning gambling activities, few others equal Tennessee in its quest to limit betting activities. Tribal casinos, commercial casinos, and race tracks are banned. Even bingo halls are banned in the state. The Tennessee State Lottery is legal, while off-track betting and simulcasting are legal.
The ban against land-based casinos is ineffective in large parts of the state. Because Memphis is on the border with Arkansas and Tennessee, those states take advantage of the local geography to cater to Memphis-area gamblers. A couple of casinos in West Memphis, Arkansas are only 15 minutes away, while nearly a dozen casinos in Tunica County, Mississippi are little over an hour away from Memphis.
Laws That Pertain to Tennessee Gambling
Gambling is contrary to the public policy of this state and means risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos, including, but not limited to, slot machines, roulette wheels and the like.
Gambling is a Class C misdemeanor in Tennessee. Gambling Promotion is a Class B misdemeanor, while “Possession of a gambling divorce or record” carries the same penalty. A rare crime called “aggravated gambling promotion” is a Class E felony, though.
Someone guilty of aggravated gambling promotion is someone who “knowingly invests in, finances, owns, controls, supervises, manages or participates in a gambling enterprise”.
Tennessee authorities charge and prosecute gambling violations more often than most US states. Since 2011, more than 500 different gaming-related arrests have happened in raids. Many of these involved businesses that kept gaming machines on the premises, but one included a raid on a card game that nearly turned fatal (due to gunshots fired).
Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law
Bingo is a “specific game of chance in which participants use cards or paper sheets divided into horizontal and vertical spaces, each of which is designated by a letter and a number, and prizes are awarded on the basis of the letters and numbers on the card conforming to a predetermined and pre-announced configuration of letters and numbers selected at random.”
Bingo halls existed in Tennessee for 10 to 15 years in the 1970s and 1980s, but it was banned in 1989. Since then, operating a bingo game ranges from a Class C misdemeanor to a Class E felony. Low end penalties include 30-day jail sentences and a fine of $250 dollars for bingo game. The maximum penalty for worse offenses is 4 to 6 years in a state prison.
Most forms of gambling are not legal in Tennessee. Casino gambling is banned, though a state lottery was established in 2003. Tennessee residents now can buy Powerball and Mega Millions tickets in the state. Most other forms of gambling are banned.
States which ban charitable bingo are pretty hard core about their gaming laws. The 1835 Constitution banned lottery betting, but since Bingo was not a game at the time, it was not banned. Based on that premise, lobbyists convinced the legislature to legalize charitable bingo in the 1970s.
By 1989, lawmakers banned charitable gambling again. Organizations can hold annual raffles for fundraising. “Cakewalks” are allowed, too. PTO Today describes what a cakewalk is: “As music plays, children walk around a large circle with numbers. When the music stops, a number is picked from a container and the child standing closest to the corresponding number on the circle wins a cake.”
The prizes can be donated cakes or other prizes, but the competition remains the same whatever the prize is.
Tennessee Online Poker Laws
Memphis-based US Rep. Stephen Cohen (D-Tennessee) was a co-sponsor of retired a federal online gambling bill by Rep. Mike Barton (D-Texas) in June 2011. That bill died in Congress with little fanfare. Besides Rep. Cohen’s work on behalf of Internet gambling, Tennessee politicians have no stomach to most forms of betting.
Among US states which might legalize online gambling, Tennessee is far down the list. Don’t expect to see Tennessee online gambling anytime soon.
Sports betting is illegal in Tennessee. Surprisingly, Tennessee passed a daily fantasy sports bill in April 2016. Gov. Bill Haslem signed into law a bill after the State Senate passed it by a 27-2 margin and the House of Representatives passed it by a 67-17 margin. Previously, Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slattery had issued an opinion that daily fantasy sports were illegal in the state. DraftKings and FanDuel each praised Tennessee’s leaders.
The Tennessee daily fantasy sports laws instituted a 6% tax on operators. Licensure is required to operate legally, but a violation is a misdemeanor. Players are limited to a reserve account of $2500, so no high rollers and players can’t lose more than $2500 a year. DFS has a minimum age requirement of 18, while operators have to segregate player funds from operating cash.
Given the action on DFS gaming, one might hope sports betting is legalized one day, but the stigma against traditional gambling might be too much in Tennessee.
No. Tennessee does not have land-based casinos. While one might expect to see a conservative southern state ban commercial casinos, the Volunteer State does not even have tribal casinos. Many Native American tribes east of the Mississippi were forcibly removed to the frontier in the 1830s and before by Tennessee native and two-term US President Andrew Jackson. For that reason, Tennessee does not have federally recognized tribes to host reservation casinos.
While residents can’t play at in-state casinos, those who live near Memphis can drive 1 hour and 15 minutes into Northwestern Mississippi to gamble at the Tunica County casinos. The city of Robinsonville, officially named “Tunica Resorts” now, is host to several riverboat casinos owned by nationally famous companies like MGM Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Penn National Gaming.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|Robinsonville||1st Jackpot Casino||1450 Bally’s Boulevard, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-9721||(662) 357-1500||943 Gaming Machines, 16 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Fitz Casino & Hotel||711 Lucky Lane, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-9141||(662) 363-5825||977 Gaming Machines, 20 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Gold Strike Casino Resort (MGM Resorts)||1010 Casino Center Drive, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-9758||(662) 357-1111||1,194 Gaming Machines, 58 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Hollywood Casino||1150 Casino Strip Resort Boulevard, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-9138||(662) 357-7700||1,041 Gaming Machines, 6 Poker Tables, 17 Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Horseshoe Casino and Hotel||1021 Casino Center Drive, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-6403||(662) 357-5500||1,068 Gaming Machines, 39 Poker Tables, 77 Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Resorts Casino Tunica||1100 Casino Strip Boulevard, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664||(662) 363-7777||800 Gaming Machines, 9 Poker and Gaming Tables|
|Robinsonville||Sam’s Town Tunica Hotel & Gambling Hall||1477 Casino Strip Resort Boulevard, Robinsonville, Mississippi 38664-9143||(662) 363-0711||819 Gaming Machines, 19 Poker and Gaming Tables|
No. The state does not have legal horse tracks or dog tracks, though betting on horse racing is legal in off-track betting facilities. Betting on dog races is illegal.
While Tennessee does not have race tracks, Memphis residents can drive 15 minutes to West Memphis, Arkansas for racebook betting at Southland Park. After Amendment 4 was passed in the 2018 midterm elections, residents eventually will be able to play at the Southland Casino, too.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number||Details|
|West Memphis||Southland Park||1550 Ingram Boulevard, West Memphis, Arkansas 72301-2234||(870) 735-3670||631 Gaming Machines, Race Book|
Does Tennessee allow off-track betting?
Yes. Tennessee allow off-track betting on horse racing and simulcasting. Most off-track betting locations simulcast thoroughbred races from over 200 tracks across the nation and worldwide. Nashville alone has over 20 such locations. Here are ten off-track betting facilities located around Nashville.
|City||Name Of Casino||Address||Phone Number|
|Nashville||Bailey’s Sports Grill||408 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37023||(615) 254-5452|
|Nashville||Wilhagan’s||314 Wilhagan Rd., Nashville, TN 37217||(615) 360-9175|
|Nashville||J.C.’s Bullseye Sports Bar||3248 Blackwood Dr., Nashville, TN 37214||(615) 885-5424|
|Nashville||Hooters||184 2nd Ave (7 locations), N Nashville, TN 37201||(615) 244-4668|
|Nashville||Melrose Neighborhood Car||2535 Franklin Pike, Nashville, TN 37211||(615) 712-8160|
|Nashville||The Other Place Sports Bar & Grill||408 Broadway, Nashville, TN 37023||(615) 254-5452|
|Nashville||Bailey’s Sports Grill||6900 Lenox Village Dr Ste 17, Nashville, TN 37211||(615) 445-8122|
|Nashville||Barlines at Omni Nashville Hotel||250 5th Ave S, Nashville, TN 37023||(615) 782-5300|
|Nashville||Players Inn||7097 Old Harding Pike Ste B, Nashville, TN 37221||(615) 662-1770|
|Nashville||Sam’s All American Sports Grill||1803 21st Ave S, Nashville, TN 37212||(615) 383-3601|
No. Tennessee allowed charitable gambling until 1989, when the legislature repealed the law which legalized it. The Tennessee Charitable Gaming Implementation Law allows for charitable gambling. Civic organizations can raise funds with an annual raffle or cakewalk, but these activities are small in nature.
Yes, but players need to be careful about the social games they play. Any kind of giveaway could be prosecutable. If you receive compensation or rewards from a social casino, it could be illegal. That means sites like MyVegas, which allow players to build up rewards for MGM Resorts’ land-based casinos in other states, would be deemed illegal.
That being said, free play social casinos like Double Down Casino, Big Fish Games, Zynga, and Slotomania are legal in Tennessee. All four allow social gaming on Facebook or in a mobile app available on Google Play for Android and the iTunes App Store for iPhone and iPad.