The Tennessee House of Representatives voted Wednesday to approve sports gambling in the state.
The measure passed on a 58-37 vote, despite facing opposition from Gov. Bill Lee.
The legislation, sponsored by Knoxville Democrat Rick Staples, would prohibit brick-and-mortar locations for sports gambling. Instead, bettors would place their wagers online, and they would have to be physically in Tennessee for those bets to be accepted.
Staples said the goal is to prevent Tennessee from losing money to other states that allow sports betting.
“What this piece of legislation is doing, more so than anything, is looking to capture dollars that we can put to good use,” Staples said.
But the measure has received pushback, with Rep. Andy Holt, R-Dresden, calling it dangerous.
“I think this legislation is pouring fuel on the addiction issues of our state,” Holt said. “And I’m OK if I’m the only one who feels that way.”
According to Staples, the bill would dedicate about $2 million to addiction treatment.
The Tennessee Senate is expected to debate the measure in the next few days, but the biggest obstacle may be Lee, who’s stated his unease with allowing sports gambling. House leadership said they don’t expect Lee to take the step of vetoing the bill if it gets to his desk.
If signed, Tennessee would join several states that have legalized sports gambling since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal ban last year.