Tennessee Online Poker Law
If the Bible Belt had a buckle, it just might be Tennessee.
There are no signs that online poker legislation is on any lawmaker’s radar, and in a state filled to the brim with a strongly religious constituency, so the consequence of floating the idea would most likely be devastating to a politician’s re-election hopes, especially in the many rural areas that make up the state.
In Tennessee, the idea of poker and gambling are inseparable. Without a major public-relations campaign, the two will forever be linked. Both are criminalized behavior. Police have and will raid poker games, even though the fines are miniscule: $1-$50 if caught playing, $250 and a Class B misdemeanor for running a poker tournament.
Lawmakers and enforcers really do have a tradition of hating gambling in Tennessee.
In the 1950s, Democrat Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver made a career out of going after organized crime, particularly gambling enterprises. If he got his way, Las Vegas would just be be a one-stop rail depot in the desert. It got him nominated for vice president.
From PBS.org: “While Kefauver's stance garnered increasing public support, casino operators in Las Vegas, anticipating the arrival of the committee, grew anxious. Casino owners knew that, despite their deep connections, they remained potentially vulnerable. One member of the Syndicate recalled, ‘You just got to the point where you thought you didn't have to bribe everybody, or at least in Nevada not pay so much, and then along comes Kefauver.’”
The Attorney General even went after fishermen who tried to hold a fishing tournament because it had a buy-in and cash prizes were to be awarded. That was in this century. In 2013, at least 13 people have had to face the courts for playing poker for real money.
Players can play poker in Tennessee, just not for money or prizes. How fun.
Besides a state lottery, Tennessee is virginal casino land, something that mostly likely will never change.
When Can I Play Online Poker in Tennessee?
Tennessee joins Utah as one of two states where online poker most likely will never be legalized. With no casino industry, a vast and powerful religious community, no Indian casinos, and no real poker community, Tennessee has all the makings of being an online poker wasteland. Even if a Federal online poker bill is approved, Tennessee would most likely opt out of it, no matter how loud its online poker fans get. The religious folks here will just shout louder and drown out all the pro-online poker arguments. Sorry, Tennessee.