Tennessee sportsbooks extended the summer slowdown into August, matching July’s 2021 low in wagers ahead of the year’s busiest four-month stretch, according to PlayTenn, which tracks the Tennessee gaming market.
“After an up and down summer, it would’ve been encouraging to see some growth in handle ahead of what is a crucial period in the industry,” said Nicole Russo, analyst for PlayTenn.com. “No sport motivates bettors like football, though. And a surge in betting this fall will put an end to the slower summer months.”
Bettors placed $144.5 million in wagers during the 31 days of August, even with July, according to official data released Monday by the Tennessee Education Lottery and Sports Wagering Advisory Council. The pace of betting remained $4.7 million per day in August from $4.7 million per day over the 31 days in July.
Gross gaming revenue ticked down to $13.2 million from $15.2 million in July. August’s revenue produced $10.1 million in taxable revenue, which yielded $2.0 million in tax revenue.
Only a handful of college football games were played in August, and none that included Tennessee, Memphis, Middle Tennessee, or Vanderbilt. The NFL schedule was even more spartan, limited to preseason games, including three with the Tennessee Titans.
But September is another matter, marking the beginning of the first full football season of legal betting in Tennessee. In 2020, a year marred by the shutdown of major sports for months, 60.2% of the money wagered legally in the U.S. was placed from September through December. In 2019, 50.8% of all legal wagers were made during the last four months of the year.
“This is the most important time for the industry, but we still don’t know for certain how bettors in Tennessee will engage over a full football season,” said Eric Ramsey, analyst for the PlayUSA.com Network, which includes PlayTenn.com. “It seems like a safe bet that wagering on football will likely represent a greater share of Tennessee’s annual handle than the national average.”
Tennessee also saw a shakeup in its mix of operators in August with Barstool Sportsbook’s launch just ahead of the NFL season. Barstool adds a familiar brand to Tennessee’s mix, and it has performed well in other states that it operates.
Regulators also approved a new social sports betting brand, Wagr, which is expected to launch during the football season.
“College football and the NFL aren’t just important in terms of the wagers they generate, they also represent the greatest opportunity for sportsbooks to grow their customer base,” Russo said. “The result is aggressive promotions from established operators, and new operators scrambling to launch before kickoff.”