Tennessee taps Nevada legal experience, names Jennifer Roberts as director of sports gaming regulation Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports · November 26, 2019 at 6:30 am A southern state, absent a casino industry but soon to launch mobile-only sports wagering, intrigued Nevada gaming attorney Jennifer Roberts. The concept – mobile sports betting without a traditional sportsbook – seems out of place. Then again, Roberts is a native of Utah, one of two states, along with Hawaii, without any form of legalized gambling: casinos, racetracks or a state lottery. Yet she found herself landing at one of Nevada’s historic law firms after law school, advising countless gaming clients on regulatory matters for more than 15 years. Jennifer Roberts Accepting the role as director of sports gaming regulation from the Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. is actually a logical move for Roberts. “The state is creating its own brand of sports betting,” said Roberts, 48, who begins her position next week. “I see this as a great opportunity. I love working with regulators, and this is an opportunity to be involved in the process from the beginning.” She will have to hit the ground running. State lawmakers approved the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act in July, a nine-member lottery corporation sports wagering advisory council has been seated, and draft rules and regulations were released last week. Interested parties have 30 days to provide input. Wagering most likely won’t go live until sometime next year. That’s why Roberts, associate director for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas International Center for Gaming Regulation, is leaving that role, packing up over the Thanksgiving holiday and heading to Nashville. Proponents view Tennessee sports betting as a market – even sans casinos – that could produce up to $4 billion a year in wagers, with operators collecting more than $250 million annually in revenue. The state tax rate on the revenues is 20%. Tennessee has three professional sports franchises – the NHL’s Nashville Predators, the NBA’s Memphis Grizzlies, and the NFL’s Tennessee Titans. And wagering is allowed on the state’s universities or colleges, including the University of Tennessee and Memphis State. Roberts has spent much of the past 18 months studying sports betting and discussing expansion of the activity at various conferences following the landmark Supreme Court ruling in May 2018 that opened the U.S. to legal and regulated sports wagering. Tennessee is taking a different approach to sports betting than the 12 states that have to this point introduced legal sports betting in casinos and racetracks (Nevada’s legacy market is the 13th state). Several states either don’t offer or limit mobile wagering. On the other end of the spectrum, New Jersey has seen mobile sports betting account for between 80% and 85% percent of the monthly handle. “We know that mobile wagering usage is growing,” Roberts said. “There is no cap to the number of licenses, so I would think we’ll see the big companies enter the market.” Roberts said Tennessee will have to look at introducing regulations that would potentially cover sports bars and taverns’ involvement with the operators. “I believe this will become a very active market,” she said. Roberts spent 11 years with Lionel Sawyer & Collins in Las Vegas – considered the state’s premier gaming law practice – where she worked closely with the late gaming attorney Bob Faiss. She is giving up her gaming law teaching duties as an adjunct professor at UNLV’s William S. Boyd School of Law and at S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah to make the move to Tennessee. In a 2015 interview, Roberts, who earned her Juris Doctor in 2002 from Utah, said gaming law piqued her interest. “I found it interesting that something that had been taboo for so long was actually a legitimate legal field,” Roberts said. “Coming from Utah, which had no gaming and weird alcohol laws, made it all the more interesting.” Tennessee Education Lottery Corp. CEO Rebecca Hargrove said Roberts will bring years of gaming experience to the position. “We are excited to have Jennifer join the Tennessee Lottery team,” Hargrove said. “Her experience and knowledge in sports gaming will be extremely helpful as the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation develops the foundational components and regulatory management for the first of its kind, online only, sports gaming product.” UNLV International Gaming Institute Executive Director Bo Bernhard said Roberts “served as a pioneer for the university’s ground-breaking gaming law program.” #exclusive – Tennessee taps Nevada legal experience, names Jennifer Roberts as director of sports gaming regulation. –@howardstutz, CDC Gaming Reports. https://t.co/faTaJRX1ri @JRoVegas #CDCgaming — CDC Gaming Reports (@CDCNewswire) November 26, 2019 “Nobody has done more to educate more people, with higher quality expertise and instruction, and all with the heart and mind of a true teacher, than Jennifer,” Bernhard said. He also credited Roberts with the growth of the gaming regulation center, which has advised and educated governments on six continents and more than four dozen global jurisdictions. “While Tennessee gets to enjoy her physical presence, she will continue to be a part of our university family, always,” Bernhard said. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.