NASHVILLE, February 28, 2019 — The NCAA College Basketball Tournament is just around the corner.
Representative Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro) has filed HB 1033, which has been dubbed the “March
Madness and Fantasy Football Freedom Act”, and is aimed at decriminalizing the yearly tradition of
thousands of Tennesseans participating in low level sports entertainment office pools.
The bill would allow an individual participant to place a maximum of twenty-five dollars into a low level
sports entertainment pool that is run solely by an individual, but not a as business for profits. The
maximum size of the pool would be one thousand dollars. Most March Madness pools involve
participants filling out one or two brackets of sixty-three games with an entry fee of five or ten dollars
per bracket. Fantasy football often involves either a flat entry fee or an entry fee of around ten dollars
with one dollar added per roster transaction. The bill is limited in its scope to only low level sports
“Whether for camaraderie or for a sense of entertainment, thousands of Tennesseans participate in
these entertainment pools at work or with their friends. They put five or ten bucks in a pot and fill out a
bracket or draft a team,” explained Terry. “The activity is more about entertainment and not gambling.
Let’s be honest, one or two movie tickets often cost more than an entry into a pool, and you gamble
more on whether or not the movie is actually going to be entertaining.”
Former NBA player and U.S. Senator Bill Bradley passed the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection
Act (PASPA) in 1992 which limited any form of gambling on sports, including low level office pools, to
only four states: Nevada, Delaware, Oregon, and New Jersey. As such, the State of Tennessee has kept
statutes on the books prohibiting activities such as March Madness and Fantasy Football pools.
The legislation was filed in light of the decision reached last May by the U.S. Supreme Court in Murphy v
NCAA; a case which overturned PASPA. By dissolving the legal bounds set by PASPA, the Supreme Court
extended the right to participate in low level pools to all 50 states. “Ideally it would a simple fix to just
repeal current statutes, but that would open the door to widespread sports gambling. I’m not going
down that road. I’m just focused on ensuring office workers and friends can enjoy activities that they
have always done without risk of criminalization,” said Terry.
In 2018 it is estimated that over 70 million March Madness tournament brackets were completed
nationwide with upwards of $10 billion in various pools. Likewise, the Fantasy Sports Trade Association
estimates that thirty-three million people participate in fantasy football, with more than $1.18 B
changing hands through pools each year. Despite their widespread popularity and recent federal “green
light”, these low level sports entertainment pools, in any capacity, are still considered illegal in
Tennessee as a Class C Misdemeanor. Technically, one could be charged, convicted, and sentenced to 30
days of jail time and ordered to pay a $50 fine for participating in fantasy football or March Madness
pools. If two people were to promote the creation of an office pool, they could be charged with
Aggravated Gambling Promotion under § 39-17-503, which is a Class E Felony carrying anywhere
between one to six years in prison and a fine up to $3,000.
“The General Assembly used to utilize the Office of the Repealer to remove anachronistic or
unnecessary laws from our code. We need to go that route with March Madness misdemeanors and
Fantasy Football felonies,” exclaimed Terry. “This statute, to my knowledge, has never been enforced
and needs to be repealed.”
If the Tennessee General Assembly passes HB 1033, it will be joining 27 other states who are looking to
address this issue in some capacity. Though Terry is taking a unique approach for thousands of
Tennesseans who annually participate in low level sports entertainment pools, he hopes he can provide
security for all those who fill out brackets. “Due to PASPA, the Feds basically created a system of black
market bracketology, and it’s time that this statute goes bust like most brackets,” concluded Terry.
For more information regarding this bill please contact the office of Representative Bryan Terry at the
Office: (615) 741-2180
Link to bill: http://wapp.capitol.tn.gov/apps/BillInfo/Default.aspx?BillNumber=HB1033