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WWE in talks to legalize betting on scripted match results

  • WWE has been in discussions with state gambling regulators in Colorado and Michigan to legalize betting on scripted match results, sources said.
  • WWE works with EY, commonly known as Ernst & Young, to ensure match results are not leaked to the public.
  • WWE creative directors do not plan to inform wrestlers who will win until hours before a match.
  • WWE aims to allow major sports betting companies to offer bets on high-profile matches.

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

Michael N. Todaro | Getty Images

WWE is in talks with state gambling regulators in Colorado and Michigan to legalize betting on high-profile matches, according to people familiar with the matter.

WWE is working with accounting firm EY to secure scripted match results in the hope it will convince regulators there is no chance of results being leaked to the public, said the people, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private. Accounting firms PwC and EY, also known as Ernst & Young, have historically worked with award shows, including the Oscars and Emmys, to keep the results secret.

Betting on the Oscars is already legal and available through some sports betting applications, including market leaders FanDuel and DraftKings, although most states do not allow it. WWE executives have cited Oscar games as a template for convincing regulators that gambling on scripted matches is safe, the people said.

Yet, while the Oscar voting results are known by a select few before they are publicly announced, they are not written by writers. Even if regulators allow gambling, betting companies will have to decide if they are willing to place odds on WWE matches even if it is legalized. Those discussions have not yet taken place with gaming companies, according to people familiar with the matter.

A WWE spokesperson declined to comment. A spokesperson for EY could not immediately be reached for comment. Gambling regulators in Michigan and Colorado did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

If WWE succeeds in its bid to legalize gambling on matches, it could open the door to legalized gambling on other guarded, secret scripted events, such as future character deaths on TV shows.

Allowing gambling on certain WWE matches will change how matches are produced – and how storylines are made. In discussions about how gambling on wrestling might work, WWE executives have suggested scripted match results be locked in months in advance, according to people familiar with the matter. The wrestlers themselves would not know whether they won or lost until shortly before a match took place, the people said.

For example, WWE can lock the results of Wrestlemania’s main event months in advance, based on a scripted narrative that was hinged on the winner of January’s Royal Rumble. Bets 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 an increased appeal to a new set of fans, while significantly altering the creative storylines. Paul Levesque, whose wrestling name is Triple H, took over as head of WWE creative operations from Vince McMahon in July. McMahon stepped down as WWE chairman and CEO last year amid allegations of sexual misconduct, but returned to the WWE board in January as executive chairman to prepare the company for a sale process.

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

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