Risky waters

In what seems like not the best idea in the world, the WWE is discussing with gambling regulators in both Michigan and Colorado the possibility of legalizing betting on the outcomes of wrestling matches. Scripted matches.

What the WWE is banking on is that regulators will buy its argument that this is just like betting on the awards shows, like the upcoming Academy Awards. Some sportsbooks take action on awards shows in some states and, like WWE matches, the results are known by some people ahead of time. The voting has taken place, auditors have verified the count, and the envelopes are printed and sealed. So, while awards shows aren’t scripted per se (they are, but not in the sense that the outcomes are scripted), the winners are not known until they are revealed live.

Betting operators would not necessarily post WWE lines if states legalize them, but I would imagine that they will if they can make money off of it.

Script development would have to change

According to CNBC’s sources, WWE execs believe they would have to change how they create their shows and script their matches. They would plan out the scripts and storylines months in advance and keep them secret from the wrestlers until shortly before the match. This way, only a select few people would know the script; if betting patterns suggested a leak, it would be easy to narrow down the suspects.

CNBC provided an example of how it all could work:

“….the WWE could lock the results of Wrestlemania’s main event months ahead of time, based on a scripted storyline that hinged 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 WWE is for sale, so getting the green light from gambling regulators could potentially increase the organization’s value. Betting is a way to drum up interest in the WWE, as people who would not have previously paid attention to it now might tune in to sweat their wager. Then they might keep watching night after night because they enjoy the show.

The obvious obstacle is keeping the results under lock and key. It is all well and good to keep the inner circle tight, but news travels. People within the organization might not intend to leak the script, but maybe they just say something in passing to a colleague, a friend, or even a stranger they strike up a conversation with at the store.

Whether or not one is a fan of the WWE, this is something worth keeping an eye on, as if it is legalized and works, it could open up more markets on scripted television shows. Imagine logging on to your mobile sports betting app to put a wager on who shot J.R.? Or who’s the next character to get killed off on The Walking Dead?

Image credit: Ed Webster via Flickr

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