The recently implemented sports wagering tax regulations in Tennessee, effective July 1, 2023, have raised concerns about their impact on the state’s financial landscape. Although it has only been three months since the new rules took effect, the initial figures are not encouraging.
In July 2023, Tennessee implemented significant changes to its sports wagering tax regulations, ushering in a new era for the state’s gaming landscape. As we delve into the unfolding developments, it becomes apparent that these reforms may have far-reaching consequences for the state’s financial well-being. In this comprehensive exploration, we examine the journey from the initial legalization of sports wagering in 2019 to the recent amendments, shedding light on the financial intricacies and potential challenges that have emerged within the first three months of the new tax format.
Evaluating the Impact: Tennessee’s Shift from Revenue to Wager-Based Taxation
The state’s foray into legalized sports wagering in 2019 set the stage for a transformative period, with mobile sports wagering becoming a reality two years later. Under the former taxation rules, operators were subject to a 20% tax on total revenue, a system that remained in place until the introduction of SB 475 in January 2023. As we navigate through the changes brought about by this amendment, including the removal of the 10% holding requirement and the shift from taxing gross revenue to total wagers, we analyze the financial implications for both the state and sportsbook operators. The following examination provides insights into the challenges and opportunities posed by the revised taxation structure and its potential impact on Tennessee’s fiscal landscape.
Tennessee entered the realm of legalized sports wagering in 2019, and after a two-year period, mobile sports wagering was rolled out statewide. Under the previous taxation rules, sportsbook operators were obligated to remit a 20% tax on their total revenue from gaming activities. In March 2023, online gaming sites in Tennessee recorded a substantial $392.7 million in wagers, with $43.7 million generated from sports wagering.
Accordingly, online operators were required to pay a 20% tax, contributing $8.8 million to the state’s coffers. Under the former taxation system, operators were mandated to hold 10% of their annual earnings. However, a significant change came with the introduction of SB 475 in January 2023, amending the sports wagering rules and formalizing them in July 2023.
The key alterations included the removal of the 10% holding requirement, favoring operators in Tennessee. Moreover, the shift from taxing gross revenue to total wagers would have resulted in a taxation amount of $392.7 million instead of the actual $43.7 million.
The revised taxation rate, decreasing from 20% to 1.85% on the wagered handle, significantly benefited operators. Consequently, instead of the state earning $8.8 million in sports wagering taxes under the previous system, it could have potentially garnered $7.2 million through deductions from online operators.
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The Tennessee Sports Wagering Council (SWAC) reported a 7.7% increase in tax earnings from sports wagering in July 2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Subsequently, August 2023 saw a 12.8% rise in the handle, reaching a taxable gross handle of $241.8 million. Despite operators paying $4.46 million in taxes, revenue experienced a year-on-year decline of $400,000.
As the football season commenced in September 2023, expectations were high for increased revenue. However, despite a rise in wagering to $420 million in gross bets, there was a disconnect as revenue failed to match the heightened betting activity, reaching $337 million in the previous year. The evolving dynamics of Tennessee’s sports wagering landscape demand continued observation to assess the full implications of the recent tax format changes.