Shelby County commissioners push state for sports betting on Beale Street

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Shelby County commissioners voted unanimously to send an initiative to the state to consider allowing sports betting.

If the state approves it, commissioners' first choice would be to bring it to Beale Street.

“Either before or after a Grizzlies game, before or after you go catch a show at the Orpheum, and you’re on Beale Street having a drink, you can place your bet," said Shelby County Commission Chairman Van Turner.

Commissioners unanimously voted this week in favor of sports betting in the county. Now, that initiative will go before state legislators in February or March. A decision is expected by May.

“We can utilize these funds to do good things in our community, so that’s why we supported it as a commission.”

Turner said the earnings would go toward areas like education, infrastructure and public safety.

The county’s asking the city to co-sponsor the legislation, but it will still go before the state if they don’t.

If the state passes it, then the council will decide whether or not to allow it within city limits. If city council votes against it, commissioners said they’d put the sports betting in bars in unincorporated areas, like on Hacks Cross Road.

“The whole idea of, 'Is it bad or is it wrong or will it contribute to the moral decay of the citizens of Tennessee?' I think we’ve had that argument and we see that everybody’s good after the state lottery.”

Turner said many in Shelby County currently go to nearby states to place sports bets, so they want to benefit from it here.

“Some want to do it and some don’t," said resident Andrew McKinney. “I would love to have gambling here in Memphis. It should’ve been some years ago.”

If the initiative does get passed, bars could choose whether or not they wanted to allow it in their establishment.

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