Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton (R-Crossville) on Monday endorsed Rebecca Paul Hargrove’s tenure as Tennessee Education Lottery (TEL) president.
This, on the same day members of the Tennessee General Assembly sent a bill to Gov. Bill Lee’s office that proposes to grant more powers over sports wagering to an entity other than the TEL Board of Directors. Instead, legislators want to give those powers to the Tennessee Lottery Corporation’s Sports Wagering Advisory Council.
According to an amendment to the bill, the legislation would essentially transfer all powers and duties regarding the Tennessee Sports Gaming Act to the Sports Wagering Advisory Council.
The Tennessee Star asked Sexton to comment on how this legislation, HB 1267, reflects on Hargrove and her leadership skills.
“Mrs. Hargrove has navigated our state lottery program exceptionally well during her tenure,” Sexton said in an email.
“Over the last year, it became obvious that the Sports Wagering Council needed to be independent from the Lottery Board for a variety of reasons. I am encouraged by this new direction, and I am looking forward to when the transition is completed.”
Sexton did not specify the reasons as to why the Sports Wagering Council needed independence.
Under present law, the Sports Wagering Advisory Council advises the TEL Board of Directors about best practices with respect to sports wagering. The council also provides administrative and technical assistance with respect to sports wagering.
Bill sponsors State Rep. John Gillespie (R-Memphis), State Rep. Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), State Rep. Jason Powell (D-Nashville) and State Sen. Ed Jackson (R-Jackson) either were unavailable or did not return requests for comment Monday. Members of Lee’s staff also did not return The Star’s request for comment.
TEL spokesman Dave Smith said in an email Monday that members of his office support the legislation “because it simplifies the governance structure for sports wagering.”
The Tennessee Journal newsletter this week suggested that Hargrove’s days as president are numbered.
“With Republican legislative leaders never quite warming to Hargrove’s leadership, the reconstituted panel might in the not-too- distant future embark on the task of considering what has long been unthinkable: finding a successor to the only CEO the Tennessee Lottery has ever had,” according to the publication.
Hargrove, according to the TEL’s website, has served in leadership roles in the lottery industry for more than 30 years, including as chief executive of the Illinois, Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee lotteries. Following a successful statewide referendum to create the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, the founding Board of Directors in 2003 recruited Hargrove to serve as chief executive officer.
TEL members formally asserted last week they are not investigating the online sports-betting website Action 24/7 and that the company’s internal controls meet state requirements. Action 24/7 operates out of the Volunteer State. Nashville Chancellor Patricia Moskal ruled last month that TEL members do “not have the unilateral right” to take punitive measures against Action 24/7 concerning a matter she’s already ruled upon.
The TEL had suspended Action 24/7’s license due to a self-reported incident of card fraud that company officials found and stopped. Moskal ruled in March that TEL members did not give Action 24/7 the proper due process and that continued suspension of the license threatens the businesses’ continued financial livelihood. She ruled that the TEL must reinstate the company’s sports gaming operator license.
Action 24/7’s license suspension caused the company to lose revenue during the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s “March Madness” basketball tournament.
When TEL Board members took away Action 24/7’s license earlier this year, they did so remotely while occupied with other matters. Some were driving their vehicles during the meeting. Others were on spring break. TEL board members acted against Action 24/7 while taking the word of one investigator who said the company didn’t follow through on the necessary security protocols.
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