Memphian Gambling Legislation Is Still Unclear As Authorities Send Mixed Messages

Tennessee gambling

A bill that allows sports betting in Tennessee advanced to the State House Departments and Agencies subcommittee last week. Some other measures to help gambling take off in the state received a cold shoulder on the other hand. Two of them were stalled because of pressure from Governor Bill Lee, as noted by a Memphis legislator. However, the government is still giving mixed messages.

The two bills sponsored by state Representative Larry Miller, which were to be heard in the House committee on Wednesday were stalled delayed because of an alleged intervention by Governor Lee. One of the bills, HB 130, proposed a Constitutional Amendment to allow casinos in the state. Miller also presented another bill, HJR 142, which will allow the Comptroller of the state to study the financial impact of legalized gambling in adjacent states. The bill has been delayed by a week and will be taken up during the subcommittee meeting this Wednesday.

When Miller was asked about his bills, he said that he had been warned by a liaison person from the Governor’s office who visited him last week on Lee’s behalf. He said that the person “flagged” the Constitutional amendment mentioned in one of the bills. Millers intend to bring the Constitutional Amendment bill back but only if he is able to get serious support for the same.

His decision to delay the second bill is also related to the discussion he had with the governor’s emissary. A spokesperson of the Governor could not confirm if the Governor had actually intervened with Miller.

Miller further noted that it didn’t seem a good time to ask for a decision on gambling and he will try to build more momentum. However, Miller is not the only one whose bills are facing trouble because of constitutional amendments related to gambling. A bill from Representative Bruce Griffey also got turned down on Wednesday in the Department and Agencies subcommittee.

The bill, HJR 102, proposed a constitutional amendment to allow bingo games for charity in the state. It was turned down on voice vote even though Griffey called for a roll-call vote. Subcommittee chairman Bill Sanderson said that legal bingo had a “tragic history” in the state. The former Secretary of State Gentry Crowell had committed suicide in 1959 when his office was being investigated for corruption charges related to bingo games. He called the scandal “Tennessee Waltz.”

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