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US – Record month in December for Tennessee’s online sportsbooks

By - 28 January 2021

Tennessee’s online sportsbooks continued to gain momentum, reaching $180m in wagers in December to close 2020 with the best two-month debut in US sports betting history.

In a December that featured four NFL Sundays, down from five in November, bettors placed $180.9m in wagers, according to official data released by The Tennessee Education Lottery. That topped November’s $131.4m handle by 37.6 per cent. December’s wagers produced a “win” of $13.9m for the operators, up from $13.2m in November. And the month’s win injected $3.1m into state coffers.

“Tennessee launched with what many thought were a lot of question marks, but it is proving to be The Little Engine that Could,” said Jessica Welman, analyst for PlayTenn.com. “It seemed operators were slow to get to the state, many were concerned the 10% hold mandate would tamp down demand, and there were questions on whether or not the Tennessee Education Lottery was up to the task of regulating the industry. Those concerns seem like a distant memory now as Tennessee has catapulted itself into becoming a major player in the US industry in just two months.”

Through the market’s first two months, Tennessee has generated $312.3m in bets, by far the most of any legal sports betting jurisdiction in US history. The next closest was Indiana, which produced $126.9m in its first two months in 2019. Shattered the records for the best first month and the best second month. Indiana held both records, hitting $35.2m in September 2019 before reaching $91.7m in October 2019.

Set a new standard for operator revenue with $27.1m. Indiana generated $20.1m in its first two months, including $11.5m in its second month. Tennessee’s hot start can be attributed to several major factors. First, the state launched its sports betting industry with online sports betting, which attracts vastly more in bets than retail sports betting in every state that has both. Secondly, with no retail component in the state, there was no in-person registration requirement for online sports betting, which can artificially depress a market. None of Tennessee’s seven neighbouring states offered online sports betting during the Volunteer State’s first two months, and only two, Arkansas and Mississippi, are home to any retail betting. And the Tennessee Titans’ playoff run undeniably spurred local interest.

“Tennessee launched under near-perfect conditions and that can be seen in the early results,” said Dustin Gouker, analyst for PlayTenn.com. “Even with added competition from Virginia now going live, Tennessee’s start has established the state as a significant player in the US And I don’t see anything that will stop the market’s momentum in the short-term.”

As it stands, Tennessee is now the nation’s seventh-largest sports betting market with plenty of growth still to come. Only four sportsbooks are in operation so far. But more are expected to come in the coming months. That includes the imminent launch of TwinSpires as well as WynnBet and William Hill.

“Having FanDuel and DraftKings, the nation’s two largest operators, in place at launch has helped fuel Tennessee’s surge,” Ms. Welman said. “But more high-quality operators will help mature the market. As good as Tennessee’s start has been, the best days are still to come.”

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