MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - State lawmakers start the next legislative session Tuesday in Nashville, with sports betting as a main focus.
The Shelby County Commission has already asked the general assembly to legalize sports betting on Beale Street.
It would be one way to compete with books that opened up in Tunica and are expected in West Memphis at Southland.
WMC Political Analyst Michael Nelson predicts there will be plenty of interest in the next legislation.
“Now that the supreme court has opened the door to the states that want to legalize sports betting and the AG of Tennessee has said the constitution of the state doesn’t forbid it, there’s going to be a lot of interest in this Legislative session,” said Nelson.
The interest is already coming from two Memphis lawmakers, both senators.
Democratic State Senator Raumesh Akbari filed a bill in mid-December, which would authorize sports betting if approved by local election. It would also create a commission to oversee it.
“People are already doing it, behind the scene of wherever so to be able to regulate that industry and raise funds for infrastructure developments and education is really going to enrich our state,” said Akbari.
In May, Republican State Senator Brian Kelsey said he would move forward with legislation to legalize sports betting if he was re-elected.
Kelsey said he hasn’t filed the proposal yet and is still working through an early framework.
“The bill that I am working on would be limited to the 4 largest cities in Tennessee and it would also be limited to neighborhoods or streets designated by city councils,” said Kelsey.
While the specifics of each proposal will surely differ, Nelson said there appears to be enough bipartisan political will to push sports wagering through.
“I think we might well see the door open legally to sports betting on Beale Street maybe within a year,” said Nelson.
Governor-Elect Bill Lee indicated during a gubernatorial debate that he would not be in favor of sports betting..
WMC reached out to a spokesperson to see if that is still his position. We have not heard back.