Special Session Tennessee

State Rep. David Hawk, R-Greeneville, top left, speaks during a recent meeting of the House Public Health Committee in Nashville. He was in Rogersville on Nov. 4 to discuss his online betting bill with the BOE.

State Rep. David Hawk from Greene County visited the Hawkins County Board of Education last week to discuss his proposed bill which would allocate online gambling revenue toward school facilities.

It’s an issue close to the heart of Hawkins County educators who saw two small rural schools close at the end of the 2020-21 school year, partly due to the cost of making facilities repairs.

The BOE also recently spent millions on new HVAC systems for both main high schools, paving Volunteer’s parking lot, and it has multiple roof and HVAC projects on its to-do list.

Hawkins told the BOE at its Nov. 4 meeting he proposes using online sports betting revenue to pay for school facility projects across the state.

Hawk’s HB 48 redirects the 80 percent portion of the tax revenue from the privilege tax on sports gaming from the Lottery for Education account to an account created for distribution to public school systems for the construction and maintenance of school buildings.

That sports betting revenue, which totaled $50 million in the first year of online betting in Tennessee, is currently being lumped in with Lottery revenue which pays for higher education scholarships and Tennessee Promise programs.

“That (Lottery) fund is in a place where all those scholarships are being funded off interest,” Hawk told the BOE. “We want to see those dollars that are being spent by Tennesseans, that are coming to us as the online sports betting fund, to go toward our facilities. You all have endorsed this and sent letters of support to Rep. Hicks and Sen. Nicely. I just happened to be here this evening, and asked for your continued support of that. I think our folks in Northeast Tennessee largely support that.”

Hawk added, “We’ve brought in roughly $50 million through this online betting, and it’s only going to get bigger. As we divide that among roughly a million students across the state of Tennessee, we’re looking at $50 per student. That is something I feel we could and should use to go back toward our facilities.”

Hawk’s bill was most recently under consideration in the House Finance, Ways, and Means Subcommittee.