By now, most people know that prime-time wrestling is scripted, but that’s not stopping World Wrestling Entertainment — commonly known as the WWE — from pursuing the option to allow people to legally bet on its matches.
CNBC reports that WWE is in talks with state gambling regulators in Colorado and Michigan to legalize betting on high-profile matches, catching many completely off-guard.
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Sources who spoke to the site said the WWE is working with accounting firm Ernst & Young to secure scripted match results “in hopes it will convince regulators there’s no chance of results leaking to the public.”
Sports betting around the world has grown into a massive and highly lucrative business in recent years, but this latest news has some raising an eyebrow higher than Dwayne (The Rock) Johnson’s, due to the WWE’s transparent status as sports entertainment.
As it stands, wrestlers are often privy to the outcome of their matches well in advance of filming, but Dave Meltzer of Wrestling Observer Radio says that would have to change if legalized betting is approved.
“The minute they tell people and it gets out, or even if it doesn’t get out, they’ll have people investigating them, and they’d be in an incredible amount of trouble for gaming violations and things like that,” Meltzer explained. “That’s nothing to mess with. They literally can’t do that. So the talent will not be able to know their finishes, at least in the matches that are being gambled on.”
Meltzer also noted that the WWE often counts on its writers and wrestlers to craft and act out storylines around the outcomes of matches, which often unfold weeks before a scheduled event. This could prove difficult and change the way the business is run, if they can’t plan out a storyline because they don’t know the end result of a match.
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“If Roman Reigns is going into that pay-per-view against Sami Zayn, and he doesn’t know if he’s going to win or lose until the last minute, how (does) everyone craft the storylines for the week before and the week after and where they’re going?” Meltzer noted.
Historically, Ernst & Young has worked with awards shows like the Emmys and Academy Awards to keep results secret and allow legal betting in some states, and sources told CNBC that WWE executives have used Oscars betting as a template to convince regulators that gambling on scripted or predetermined events can be done safely.
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Sports betting site Action Network says “a lot” of people within the WWE typically know the results of a match ahead of time, including top executives, key members of creative teams and often broadcast teams.
“And that’s just those we have a high degree of confidence in saying know the results beforehand. There are undoubtedly others,” the site notes.
However, the site also notes that the WWE is likely pursuing Michigan and Colorado as partners in legal betting as the gaming control boards in those states “tend to be more loose with their rules” and currently allow betting on events such as the Oscars.
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