Tennessee Gambling Bill Moving Forward

It's been decades since Tennessee lawmakers considered a casino gambling bill. But state Rep. Jason Powell's measure, allowing casino gambling, passed out the subcommittee where it was introduced and was referred to a summer fiscal study. The Tennessee constitution must be amended to permit casino gaming.

For the first time in decades in the Tennessee legislature, a bill proposing casino gambling, introduced by state Rep. Jason Powell, proceeded out of a subcommittee where it had been introduced, and led to discussion of the pros and cons of gaming among legislators.

Powell asked attorney Stuart Scott of the Dickinson Wright law firm to make a presentation to lawmakers about gambling. Scott noted between 2007 and third quarter 2012, 30 percent of patrons at Tunica, Mississippi casinos were Tennessee residents. In fact, Scott said, Tennessee residents accounted for 50 percent more Tunica casino patrons than Mississippi residents.

Scott used Ohio as an example of the enormous financial benefits Tennesseans could gain from legalized gaming. He said Ohio opened four casinos between 2012 and 2013 which in 2014 alone earned $268 million in gaming revenue for the state, and have generated more than $1 billion in gaming revenue since the fourth casino was completed in 2013.

Scott explained the Tennessee constitution must be amended to permit casino gaming. He added unlike the state lottery, the state can control casino gaming by setting a limit on the number of casinos allowed and their locations. For example, Ohio allowed only four casinos, one in each of the state’s largest cities.

Powell’s bill would divide gaming revenue between K–12 education and gaming addiction programs. City and county funds, property tax abatement, infrastructure work, law enforcement support and state agencies also may benefit.

The bill was referred for a fiscal study to take place this summer.