It’s clear why World Wrestling Entertainment would want headlines over the prospect of bettors being allowed to wager legally on scripted matches, and not all of it has to do with trying to drive up the potential sale price of the company.
Betting increases fan engagement. Just ask NFL, MLB, the NCAA – even the folks who organize ping pong. They all find a big upside when fans are able to bet on the games.
Massachusetts just launched mobile betting Friday, but nobody there can legally bet on “Friday Night SmackDown” matches. “The WWE is not an approved sports league,” the Massachusetts Gaming Commission points out.
Colorado regulators aren’t happy about the prospect even being floated. “The Colorado Division of Gaming is not currently and has not considered allowing sports betting wagers on WWE matches,” they said. ”At no time has any state gaming regulator in Colorado spoken with the WWE about including wagers on our approved wager list.”
Colorado statute forbids “wagers on events with fixed or predicted outcomes or purely by chance,” and that includes the Academy Awards. Seven other states do permit Oscars betting, in some form. Indiana and New Jersey don’t permit live betting, and they limit the size of the wagers.
As in most states, Michigan only accepts requests from gambling operators or platforms, and WWE hasn’t even made a request, according to the state gaming control board. It issued a public statement advising WWE to work with the gaming industry.
That may be an even bigger hurdle than getting past gaming regulators.
“NFW!” replied Adam Greenblatt, CEO of BetMGM, whether he would be eager to accept wagers on the WWE’s scripted matches. BetMGM is the U.S. market leader in iGaming, or casino games played online. He was speaking at iGamingNext, an industry conference, earlier this week. (NFW stands for “no f—-ing way.” Talk about a smackdown!)
The response from FanDuel wasn’t quite as colorful or as public, but a spokesperson said it’s highly unlikely the nation’s sports betting market leader would ever accept a bet.
DraftKings demurred, saying it would be up to the regulators.
FanDuel , owned by Flutter Entertainment, says permitting betting on the Academy Awards, once a year, is completely different to contemplating the enormity of weekly scripted programming, at least twice a week from the WWE.
The legal gambling industry puts a premium on avoiding scandal. The American Gaming Association, which represents both commercial and tribal operators, told CNBC: “Both regulators and operators must have confidence in the integrity of the competitions.”
Gambling insiders are skeptical that the large amount of hassle and risk of betting on scripted events are worth what’s likely to be fairly modest in terms of betting activity.
“Ultimately, most industry stakeholders seem to view WWE betting as even more optically-challenging than betting on awards shows,” Sharp Alpha Advisors managing director Lloyd Danzig said.