WWE in talks about legalized wagering on scripted scores

Vince McMahon attends a news conference to announce that WWE Wrestlemania 29 2013 will be held at MetLife Stadium at MetLife Stadium on February 16, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Michael N Todaro | Getty Images

WWE is in talks with state gaming regulators in Colorado and Michigan to legalize wagering on high-profile games, according to people familiar with the matter.

WWE is working with accounting firm EY to secure scripted match results in hopes it will convince regulators there is no chance of results becoming public, said those who asked not to be named , as the discussions are private. Accounting firms PwC and EY, also known as Ernst & Young, have worked with awards shows like the Academy Awards and the Emmys in the past to keep results secret.

Betting on the Academy Awards is already legal and available through a number of sports betting apps, including market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, although most states do not allow it. WWE executives have used Oscars bets as a template to convince regulators that playing scripted games is safe, the people said.

Although the Oscars voting results are known to a select few before they are publicly announced, they are not written by authors. Even if gambling is allowed by regulators, bettors would have to decide if they are willing to place odds on WWE games, even if they are legal. Those discussions have yet to take place at betting shops, according to people familiar with the matter.

A WWE spokesman declined to comment. A spokesman for EY was not immediately available for comment.

According to a Michigan gaming spokesman, the Michigan Gaming Control Board publishes a sports betting catalogue. When updates to the catalog are approved, the information will be shared publicly through the agency’s website and with sportsbooks.

The Colorado Division of Gaming told CNBC that it currently does not allow, and has not considered, sports betting on WWE games.

Under lock and key

If WWE is successful in legalizing gambling at games, it could open the door to legalized wagering on other guarded, secret events, such as: B. Future deaths of characters in TV series.

Allowing gambling at certain WWE matches would change the way matches are produced – and how storylines are created. In discussions about how gambling might work in wrestling, WWE executives have suggested that scripted match outcomes be determined months in advance, according to people familiar with the matter. The wrestlers themselves wouldn’t know if they were winning or losing until just before a fight, people said.

For example, WWE could determine the results of Wrestlemania’s main event months in advance based on a scripted storyline related to the winner of January’s Royal Rumble. Betting on the match could then take place between the end of the Royal Rumble and up to days or even hours before Wrestlemania when the wrestlers and others in the show’s production would learn the results.

The introduction of legalized gambling could give WWE greater appeal to a new set of fans while significantly changing creative storylines. Paul Levesque, whose wrestling name is Triple H, took over as creative director of WWE from Vince McMahon in July. McMahon resigned as WWE chairman and CEO last year amid sexual misconduct allegations, but returned to the WWE board as executive chairman in January to prepare the company for a sale process.

WWE will be meeting with potential buyers for the company next month in preparation for first-round bids, two of the people said. There is no assurance that a transaction will take place.

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