- WWE has shown reported interest in entering the sports betting space
- Most state gaming commissions have existing statutes that prohibit betting on events with predetermined outcomes
- Industry experts believe there could be a pathway to WWE sports betting in the future
By all reports, the WWE is looking to enter the U.S. sports betting market and allow bettors a chance to place wagers on their matches. But despite their hopes, most state gaming regulators are ready to halt the sports entertainment company’s sports betting efforts with a quick thumb to the eye when the referee has his back turned.
As reported by CNBC in March, the sports entertainment behemoth has had initial discussions with accounting firm Ernst and Young to secure WWE match results to potentially find a legal path for regulated sports betting on their events.
However, even if the WWE could secure its results with the firm, the vast majority of states with legalized sports betting have statutes prohibiting bets on scripted events. Also, states that currently allow bets on the Academy Awards, which the WWE has cited as a template for wager on their own events, do not seem to have much of an appetite to allow betting on professional wrestling in their borders.
So, is there a path to legalized sports betting on WWE events? Sports Betting Dime analyzed the WWE’s potential plans and spoke with several industry experts to see if this may ever become a possibility.
WWE Eyes Sports Betting in the U.S.
A number of requests for comment were made to the WWE for this story, but none were returned.
CNBC reported the WWE has held at least preliminary discussions with several states on a potential solution to allowing bets on WWE matches. One such solution would be match results being safeguarded months in advance from Ernst and Young, the same accounting firm that safeguards the Academy Award results, with wrestlers not knowing the results until moments before a match.
Endeavor Group COO Mark Shapiro recently said in an interview on “Sports Media with Richard Deitsch” that while in-game betting will never be a growth strategy for WWE, he does expect pre-match betting to potentially happen at some point.
Endeavor and the WWE announced a plan to merge in April and form a new publicly listed company.
“First of all, more and more it’s about what you can do in-game. It is about props, it is about parlays, it is about in-game betting, which lends itself so well to sports like the UFC. But, I don’t think the WWE, because it’s scripting, that’s ever going to be a growth strategy for them. Yes, you can get some betting on who is going to win before the match, but in-game will be very hard to do,” he said.
So, despite in-game betting being out for the WWE, Shapiro did say he is expects “some betting” on pre-match events. So how could that possibly happen?
If the WWE could potentially use Ernst and Young to secure match results it may offer a legal avenue for sports betting on professional wrestling. It’s a concept that could work, but would need to be regulated by state gaming commissions or regulatory bodies before ever becoming a reality.
The WWE also presently has relationships in the sports betting world. The sports entertainment company partnered with DraftKings Sportsbook in 2021, with the operator agreeing to serve as WWE’s official gaming partner. DraftKings offers free-to-play pools for its users to make prop selections on what wrestlers will do in WWE events.
With its foot already dipped into the sports betting world, is there any path where legal bets can be placed on WWE matches?
Is This Actually a Possibility?
Betting on the WWE seems far fetched, but several industry experts see it as a possibility moving forward.
Shawn Fluharty, minority whip of the West Virginia House of Delegates and vice president of National Council of Legislators from Gaming States, sees the expansion of sports betting to include markets such as the WWE, politics, and award shows.
Fluharty was instrumental in legalizing sports betting in West Virginia in March 2018 and is a well-respected voice in the sports betting industry.
“I think many states, West Virginia included, passed statutorily broad legislation to empower regulators, such as the West Virginia Lottery, to use their expertise in evaluating what may or may not be allowed to be bet on going forward. I think most people expect betting to expand, especially into areas like politics and award shows, and I think categorically WWE would fall into that sphere,” he told Sports Betting Dime.
Look at Europe, he said, which has allowed betting on politics, award shows, and the WWE for years. The U.S. could model any sports betting expansion on these European markets.
“I do think we will see it expand at some point…It’s inevitable we will follow a similar path.”
It’s doubtful, though, that the state he represents, West Virginia, will be the first to allow such an expansion. Brian Nickerson, general counsel for the West Virginia Lottery, told Sports Betting Dime that the lottery “has no plan to approve wagers being placed on WWE matches or events.”
Me to state gaming commissions: “Hey, has the WWE ever approached you with the idea of allowing bets on their matches? Or has an operator ever floated that idea to you? It’s been reported the WWE has interest in moving into the sports betting space.”
Gaming commissions: pic.twitter.com/jRQR2PpI8E
— RLinnehanXL (@RLinnehanXl) May 25, 2023
Chris Grove, Co-founding Partner of Acies Investments, quickly slapped a figure four leg lock on the idea of WWE being a major player in the sports betting field even if wagering on such events is legalized.
While it’s possible that some states could offer sports bets on WWE events in the future, it will likely never be anything more than a novelty bet with low stakes, he said.
“I think wrestling bets are likely to stay firmly within the territory of ‘novelty’ bets. I have a hard time seeing substantial amounts of markets or substantial amounts of money when it comes to WWE events. If such betting happens at all, it’s likely to be something primarily designed as a customer acquisition and activation tool versus something that drives material revenue or profits,” Grove said.
It’s very unlikely that any meaningful material amount of money will be allowed to be bet on professional wrestling. There is a natural cap on the amount of money that people will to be on this and what sportsbooks will want to take on a predetermined event, he said.
“When the outcome is predetermined, it creates a low and firm ceiling on the amount of money that can possibly be wagered on an event.”
While all of this is certainly a possibility, are there any states that may actually consider these type of bets?
Hard Pass at the State Level
None of the WWE’s plans will matter unless the sports entertainment company can find a state willing to allow sports betting on professional wrestling.
Sports Betting Dime contacted several state sports betting regulatory bodies on the possibility of allowing bets on professional wrestling and none were receptive to the idea.
Shannon Gray of the Colorado Division of Gaming, one of several states reported as having interest in allowing such bets back in March, said Colorado is not considering allowing wagers on WWE matches.
“The Colorado Division of Gaming is not currently, and has not considered, allowing sports betting wagers on WWE matches. By statute, wagers on events with fixed or predicted outcomes or purely by chance are strictly prohibited in Colorado; this includes wagers on the Academy Awards,” she said.
Gray’s response for the Colorado Division of Gaming was not an uncommon one. Most states have prohibitions against allowing bets on events with predetermined outcomes, which firmly puts the WWE (and award shows like the Academy Awards) in the crosshairs.
The Ohio Casino Control Commission will not approve requests for wagers or events involving “events which are pre-recorded or in which the outcome has been other previously determined,” Commission spokesperson Jessica Franks said.
Franks noted that the commission also has not received any requests to add WWE events to the Ohio sports betting catalogue.
Seth Elkin, a spokesperson for the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency, said allowing bets on professional wrestling would be “unfair to bettors” in the Old Line State.
“Maryland’s sports wagering law and regulations prohibit forms of wagering that are contrary to public interest or unfair to bettors. We’ve determined that it is unfair to bettors and therefore not in the public’s interest to accept wagers on sports entertainment events that have scripted or predetermined outcomes, like professional wrestling,” he said.
Representatives for New York, Pennsylvania, and Arizona also said their respective states would not consider allowing bets on WWE events at this time.
“New York does not permit sports wagering on non-sports events,” Brad Maione, Director of Communications for the New York State Gaming Commission, told Sports Betting Dime.
New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement representative Daniel Prochilo said the DGE could not levy a comment on “any hypothetical discussion with an operator or league about future sports betting opportunities.
Kansas Lottery spokesperson Cory A. Thone said the lottery “always considers requests made by our partners on new markets, but there have been no requests made regarding professional wrestling at this time.”
So What’s Next?
Will the WWE be able to kick out at three, or will its sports betting hopes go out on its back like Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania III?
While most states are not presently looking to approve bets on professional wrestling, the industry experts Sports Betting Dime discussed the issue with seemed to be confident that some allowance on wagers on sports entertainment will be legal in the future.
If approved, however, it’s unlikely that bets on WWE events will ever account for large amounts of handle or be more than a novelty to entice new customers to a platform.
With its predetermined outcomes and scripted nature, the WWE will have to find a way to safeguard its match results with a third-party to ensure fairness to its bettors.
But if the WWE can’t find a way to securely audit its outcomes like the Academy Awards? Any hopes of betting on the WWE at any level, novelty or not, will be tossed off the top of a steel cage.
The post WWE’s Fight for Sports Betting on Professional Wrestling May Be Thwarted at State Level appeared first on Sports Betting Dime.