Tennessee Sports Wagering Advisory Council Intensifies Search For Executive Director

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Tennessee’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council (SWAC) held its second meeting on Tuesday to intensify efforts to find its new executive director. During the meeting, which took place in Nashville, the SWAC also discussed the timeline for formulating a new set of permanent sports wagering rules for the Volunteer State.

Tuesday’s meeting was the second meeting for the SWAC, after assuming new regulatory responsibilities of Tennessee sports betting from the Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL), which had been overseeing Tennessee sports betting the state launched its sports betting last November.

On May 27, Gov. Bill Lee signed legislation that gave the regulatory control of sports betting to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council. The Tuesday meeting was the second such meeting as part of that transfer of power that will take months to complete.

At the first meeting on June 1, the nine-member council had discussed the possibility to find a director through a search firm.

What Happened on Tuesday?

Billy Orgel, chairman of the council, called the meeting to order, making a motion to approve the minutes of the SWAC’s previous meeting.

The leading agenda was again the hiring of an executive director.

Some members supported the idea of hiring a search firm to help secure a wider range of the most qualified and experienced candidates for the role. But several members raised concern that a search firm could take months, and the SWAC has a tight deadline of January to take complete regulatory reins from the TEL.

Councilmember Brian Fazenbaker suggested a parallel system to speed up the process by simultaneously hiring a search firm for the most suitable candidate, while also running an application process by the SWAC. He said a subcommittee should be appointed to review applications.

The Possibility of An Interim Director?

The SWAC must hire its key personnel before taking full control from TEL on Jan.1, 2022. The possibility of a parallel process gained ground on Tuesday as Samuel Lee also supported the idea of the council searching its own search besides hiring a search firm to find candidates.

If the Request For Proposal process takes more time than expected, an interim director could fill the space.

Samuel Lee said they’re losing an opportunity to build infrastructure with each passing day.

Tom Lee endorsed the idea of an interim director, saying the best candidate for that caretaker role must be someone with an intimate knowledge of state government. But Lee added that such a caretaker would not be eligible for the position of executive director.

New Sports Betting Regulations Also Came Up

The other most important agenda was the issue of updating existing Tennessee sports betting regulations. Tom Lee laid out a potential timeline for implementing the council’s new structure.

It appears almost impossible for the SWAC to implement permanent rules by Jan. 1, though emergency rules can be in effect for six months. However, permanent rules must be implemented before the expiry of the emergency rules.

All rulemaking will have a public hearing a comment procedure before advancing to a legislative process.

Tom Lee suggested the possibility of initial emergency rules during the council’s special committee in September. The permanent rules are expected by November. Lee will chair this committee.

How Have We Reached Here?

A director position is vacant after Danielle Boyd resigned in March to become the Vice President at Hard Rock Digital in Fort Lauderdale.

On Tuesday, TEL CEO Rebecca Hargrove announced that investigator Danny DiRienzo also resigned this week, shrinking TEL’s sports wagering committee to seven members

With a reduced team, the TEL has to face big challenges including four operator license renewals, in addition to granting approval to six applicants.

Though Tennessee sports betting has yet to give its full May report, Hargrove said the state’s sportsbooks took in nearly $160 million in handle for the month, resulting in the $2.7 million for state tax.

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