As a lifelong wrestling fan that works in the gambling industry, I must admit that I was quite surprised to see my LinkedIn feed flooded with articles about WWE and betting recently. As it turns out, the WWE is pursuing legalization to provide odds for its matches in Michigan, Colorado, and Indiana. The move could see major operators and sportsbooks offer odds on the WWE’s biggest events. The news has caused quite a stir, with many claiming that such a move would be outrageous and that the scripted nature of the WWE means people shouldn’t be able to bet on it. Is it quite as clear-cut as that? In this article, I’m going to explain why I don’t think that’s the case.
The WWE and wrestling companies occupy a unique spot in popular culture. The industry put itself on the map in the 80s and 90s with larger-than-life characters like Hulk Hogan and The Rock but has since become a little more niche.
Vince McMahon, the former CEO turned Executive Chairman of the company, has been quick to label the product as ‘sports entertainment’. The athletic ability of its performers is undeniable, but whether you can fully consider it a sport or not is another question. Purists will argue that it does deserve status as a sport, while detractors will openly mock the slightest suggestion that this is the case.
It’s a debate that is likely to heat up in the coming months. Predictably, the plans to enter the betting markets and offer odds on their matches have raised a few eyebrows. As a wrestling fan, I can see both sides of the argument, but in the end, I fall in favor.
The crux of the argument around betting on the WWE is that the match outcomes are predetermined. While the result is not widely known, it is still possible for results to be leaked and for people to benefit from this.
Many bookmakers in the UK will offer odds on the WWE, and I’ve written several betting previews for publications for its big events. One of the first things people ask me about this is ‘how can people bet on something where the outcome is determined?’
The WWE’s argument, according to reports, is that the same can be said about awards ceremonies, and it’s an argument I’ve used myself. A select few will know the Academy Awards results before the ceremony starts, which puts it into the same category as the WWE, minus the sports element. The WWE has always been very careful to market itself as sports entertainment and not a sport.
Other reality TV shows will also offer betting markets and have similar situations. These betting markets are extremely common in the UK, with the Academy Awards and WWE events like the Royal Rumble and WrestleMania proving popular with the betting public. The WWE will hope that offering odds in the United States will help boost their domestic viewership. There could also be another agenda, with long-rumored talks of a company takeover picking up steam this year.
People will argue that the outcomes of the Academy Awards are known by fewer people, but that is not always the case. The WWE has gone to extreme lengths over the years to protect its outcomes, to the point where it has scripted multiple endings and only allowed the talent to know the finish. The WWE is also apparently working with Ernst & Young (E&Y) to ensure results are not leaked to the public. E&Y has previous experiences working with awards bodies in the same way.
Booking decisions in the WWE come down to a select group of people. Writers will decide how storylines will go, but the final booking decision will come down to the Head of Creative. The booking process of wrestling is complex, but keeping the final decision under wraps is not difficult. Think of it as a TV show filming multiple endings to avoid spoilers, with only the actors knowing which one is actually going to be used.
But what about bettors? Can they work out who is going to win and give themselves an advantage? Well, no, not really. People who follow wrestling, like people who follow the awards circuits, will often have a good idea of how something will go on the night, but so will the bookies. From an audience perspective, the result may be more predictable than in another sport, but there is still no way of knowing how a match will play out once the bell rings.
One question that has arisen is whether or not these moves will cause changes to the wrestling industry itself. If WWE betting is approved, talent will no longer be informed of big-match outcomes in advance. This could cause issues behind the scenes within the industry, with bigger stars often liking to have some control over their creative situations.
From my perspective, this highlights how much WWE is willing to invest in this move. Alienating talent is a big risk, especially with rival companies on the horizon. This shows that the WWE sees a lot of potential in gaining approval. Many sports in America benefit from cross-platform promotion with betting brands, and the WWE wants a piece of that pie. The WWE has already been working with DraftKings, offering prize draws and prediction contests, and they will have no doubt seen the benefits of doing this.
This debate is another of the early growing pains we will likely see as the American sports betting scene continues to grow. There are already critics saying that the industry is getting out of hand, and if the WWE is granted approval, then you can only imagine this will add more fuel to that fire.
This article delivers the thoughts and opinions of the author, and it doesn't represent the stance of GoodLuckMate.