Tennessee Gambling Laws

Tennessee gamingTennessee is a fun place to live or visit for many reasons but gambling, likely, is not one of them.  The state has no casinos and this includes both commercial and tribal types.  There are no race tracks and the law prohibits pari-mutuel betting.  Also, unlike other states that implicitly or expressly permit social gambling, Tennessee is not such a state and social gambling can be treated the same as other types of gambling offenses – as a misdemeanor.  However, the state does permit a lottery, charitable games, limited to raffles (to be hosted by licensed entities), and because it cannot constitutionally prevent state residents from interstate travel, residents may go to neighboring states and gamble there.

Many or even most state laws define gambling as some combination of a playing a game or activity that has elements of chance but also, in some cases, skill.  This is not the case with Tennessee which defines gambling as making bets on anything in which “any-chance” is involved.

Section 39-17-501
This specifically states that gambling is anything in which a person is “risking something of value for a profit which is dependent on chance, or any games of chance associated with casinos (ie slot machines, poker machines and roulette)”  Turning the adage that ignorance of the law is no excuse to breaking it, Tennessee law takes an opposite approach by articulating that only those who knowingly gamble can be charged and convicted with such an offense pursuant to Section 39-17-502.

Whereas most gambling offenses are treated as misdemeanors, some can rise to the level of felonies.  For instance, since cognizance is a major factor in ascertaining whether gambling has occurred rather than what can be construed as ignorant play, promoting gambling is viewed as being especially egregious because it signifies that a person or operator was aware of the law and flouted it anyway.  Such offenses are considered to be aggravated and rise to the level of a felony.

The law expressly forbids such activity, stating that any person who “knowingly invests in, finances, owns, controls, supervises, manages or participates in a gambling enterprise” can be prosecuted and charged with a felony.

Per Section 39-17-506, even greater offenses, i.e. felonies, exist when entities operate “lotteries, chain letters and pyramid letters.”  Such offenses are presumed to demonstrate a direct competition with and threat to state authority and therefore sovereignty by non-state actors for the purpose of making profit as well as skirting tax liability responsibilities.

Online Gambling

Due to the state being conservative about land based gambling, one can easily surmise that online gambling is not a major issue in terms of allowing it.  The state, though, has not made moves to disallow it, instead opting to not address the issue at the present time.

Recent Developments

There currently are no recent developments in the state pertaining to gambling, most notably the legalization of such activities to a greater degree.

Casinos in Tennessee

Zip, Zero, Zilch. There are no casinos in the state.



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