Is A Tennessee Book Holding Sports Betting Winnings To Pay Off Payday Loans?

Tennessee Rep. Darren Jernigan was reading a copy of the weekly Tennessee Journal when a recent sports betting approval caught his eye.

An approval during a January meeting of the Tennessee Education Lottery Sports Wagering Committee allowed Advance Financial Money Transmission Company to take deposits for Action 24/7, a sportsbook owned by the same people as loan company Advance Financial 24/7.

Having the ability to fund a TN sports betting account at the same place high-interest loans are available rubbed Jernigan the wrong way. That’s why he filed HB 824 Tuesday to make it illegal for people to bet and have a loan at the same location. Sen. Richard Briggs filed an identical bill, SB 1029, Wednesday.

“Really, it is the literal definition of loan sharking,” Jernigan said. “I take a 279% interest and then gamble with it. The only difference is you don’t get your legs broken the next day, you go into a cycle of debt that ends up in bankruptcy.”

It’ll still be a few weeks before Jernigan puts the bill up for committee hearing, as he’s still working on the proposal. He’s considering an amendment to clean up some of the language and an amendment to require a bank account to place sports bets.

Action 24/7 using Tennessee sports betting winnings to pay off loans?

Another thing Jernigan had a problem with is Action 24/7 using the winnings of anyone that has a loan with Advance Financial to pay down their debt.

Jernigan said he’s already aware of one person that’s happened to who is willing to testify to it. He’s worried about what that might encourage.

“Some people might say [paying down the debt] is a good thing too, I don’t know,” Jernigan said. “But what it encourages is for folks to go in and place a bet to try to knock their loan off.”

Advance Financial’s vendor application to allow deposits and withdrawals at their more than 100 locations around Tennessee didn’t sit well with the Lottery board during the meeting, either. Speakers noted the request “feels a little funny” and “gives some pause.”

Ultimately, though, the application was approved because it didn’t go against the sports betting law passed in 2019.

Advance Financial denies keeping winnings

LSR reached out for comment from Action 24/7 but was rerouted to Cullen Earnest, senior VP of public policy at Advance Financial 24/7.

Earnest denied the claim:

“This practice is not happening in our stores. No one has contacted us with a complaint like this – ever. If you find someone that has experienced anything like this at one of our stores please contact me. We will remedy the situation immediately.”

Proposal would prevent multiple types of transactions

Should the bipartisan proposal pass, it would be illegal for lenders to offer multiple types of services to someone also betting in the same place:

  • Flex loan plans
  • Loans using titles to a customer’s property, like a car, as collateral
  • Deferred presentment services, which include accepting a check and holding it before using it as payment or deposit
  • Cashing checks

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