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Tennessee Gambling Laws

Tennessee Gambling Laws at a Glance

Although gambling is becoming more and more commonplace throughout the country, Tennessee's gambling laws are quite restrictive. Even a fishing tournament in which participants paid entry fees for the chance of winning cash prizes was ruled to be gambling (and thus illegal) by the state's attorney general. Still, Tennessee allows betting on horse racing and operates an official state lottery, while nonprofits may ask the state for permission to hold bingo or other games for fundraising. The gambling statute also singles out "futures or commodities trading" as legal activities.

So while most forms of gambling are strictly prohibited in Tennessee, even some activities that may not seem like gambling, not all forms of gambling are illegal. Sound confusing? Review the following chart to learn more about Tennessee's gambling laws.

Code Section 4-36-101 et seq.; 39-17-501 et seq.
Gambling Risking anything of value for a profit whose return is to any degree contingent on chance, not including lawful business transactions.
Horse Racing/Off-Track Betting Licensed horse racing; interstate simulcast wagering; and pari-mutuel wagering at licensed satellite teletheaters legal.
Dog Racing/Off-Track Betting Not specified.
Casinos Allowed? Gambling devices prohibited.
Other Kinds of Gambling-Related Activities Allowed or Banned Promoting gambling; pyramid clubs; possessing gambling devices or records; customer referral rebates are illegal. Bingo and games of chance conducted by charitable organizations are legal.

Note: State laws are constantly changing. While FindLaw makes effort to ensure that these laws are updated as needed, you may want to contact a Tennessee gaming attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

What are the Penalties for Illegal Gambling in Tennessee?

There are two distinct types of charges for illegal gambling under Tennessee statute: gambling and gambling promotion. If you are caught gambling, you may be charged with a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a fine ranging from $1 to $50. To set up a poker tournament with the intention of making money is a Class B misdemeanor, carrying a fine of up to $250.

But financing, owning, or supervising a gambling operation is a Class E felony, punishable by up to six years and prison and a possible $10,000 fine.

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