13 States Comment On Possibility Of Allowing Gambling On WWE Matches

In March 2023, CNBC reported that WWE was working toward legalizing gambling on wrestling matches, enlisting the services of accounting firm Ernst & Young, with Michigan, Colorado, and Indiana mentioned as the initial targets. As of now, betting on WWE matches is only available at offshore sportsbooks like BetOnline.ag, based out of Antigua, and Bovada, based out of Latvia. Betting on matches in America would open up new streams of revenue for WWE and add some mainstream legitimacy to the sports entertainment powerhouse.

Since that report broke, however, it's been nothing bad news for WWE in the gambling department. Dave Meltzer has reported that WWE's efforts aren't going well — Colorado denied talking to WWE and said that "By statute, wagers on events with fixed or predicted outcomes ... are strictly prohibited in Colorado." Indiana told Casino.org that it had "no interest in approving wagering on scripted events," and Michigan also denied any recent talks with WWE, while New Hampshire Lottery Commission executive director Charlie McIntyre deemed it "very unlikely" betting on WWE gets approved in New Hampshire.

In light of this, Wrestling Inc. reached out to multiple states about the possibility of legalized betting on WWE matches. Each gambling commission was asked 1) how likely WWE would be to succeed if they pitched gambling on matches to them, and 2) if there were any regulations, laws, or statutes that barred betting on something with predetermined outcomes. 13 states -– Arizona, Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Oregon, South Dakota, and Washington -– responded. While their responses varied slightly, overall, they paint a picture of increasingly fewer opportunities, and increasingly more obstacles, for legal gambling on WWE matches to get approved.

Oregon, Maryland, and South Dakota shoot it down completely

At least three states say they wouldn't allow gambling on WWE as a matter of policy, even if there are no explicit laws against it.

Kerry Hemphill, Manager of Sports Betting Product at the Oregon Lottery, made it clear that gambling on WWE wouldn't be allowed as a matter of policy in the Beaver State: "Although there is no law or statute that forbids it, Oregon Lottery sports betting policy is to not accept wagers on scripted events with predicted outcomes."

Seth Elkin, Assistant Director of Communications for Public Affairs for Maryland Lottery and Gaming, also told us his state had made a determination on the matter. "Maryland's sports wagering law and regulations prohibit forms of wagering that are contrary to public policy or unfair to bettors," he said. "We've determined that it is unfair to bettors, and therefore not in the public's interest, to accept wagers on sports entertainment events that have predetermined outcomes, like professional wrestling."

Meanwhile, a representative from the South Dakota Department of Revenue simply said, "WWE wrestling matches would not be eligible for sports wagering in South Dakota."

Iowa and Ohio say no to betting on predetermined events

Two more states said that predetermined events weren't permitted, but made a point to highlight policy and procedure. Brian J. Ohorilko, Administrator of the Iowa Racing and Gaming Commission, also shot down gambling on wrestling for the time being.

"Predetermined events are not permitted in the State of Iowa," he told Wrestling Inc. "Iowa law defines and permits professional sporting events and sports-related events; however, fixed or predetermined outcomes are not explicitly permitted. As such, and for other integrity concerns, the commission has not permitted predetermined events in any of the approved wagering markets."

Ohorilko also brought up the process that would be required for any kind of legalization: "From a practical standpoint, any request would need to come with a legal opinion as to how this would be permitted under Iowa law," he said. "It would need to go through legal review with consultation from the AG office. If legal review passes, the commission would still need to review policy and integrity concerns with respect to the activity having predetermined outcomes. Approval would be needed before this type of wagering activity could take place."

Ohio tells a similar story. Jessica Franks, Director of Communications for the Ohio Casino Control Commission, pointed us towards Rule 3775-11-01 of the Ohio Administrative Code — the process for adding to Ohio's catalog of wagers and events. She said the Commission's review of such requests includes, but is not limited to, the following criteria:

  • The quality of the governing body's documented integrity program.
  • The general availability of information related to the governing body.
  • The professional or skill level status of athletes.
  • The history of integrity related to events sanctioned by the governing body.

This already puts the WWE in shaky territory, but it's seemingly locked out for good with the following consideration: "Please note that the Commission will not approve requests for wagers/events involving 'Events which are pre-recorded or in which the outcome has been otherwise previously determined.'"

Arizona and Connecticut have laws against betting on fixed outcomes

At least two states have laws in place that would ban gambling on WWE matches.

Max Hartgraves, Public Information Officer at the Arizona Department of Gaming, provided a straightforward statement: "Arizona statute prohibits gambling on fixed events."

Meanwhile, when asked how likely WWE would be to garner approval for gambling on matches, Kaitlyn Krasselt, Communications Director at Connecticut Department of Consumer Protections, said "I cannot speculate on that." That said, she did inform Wrestling Inc. about state regulations on gambling: "Connecticut law only allows wagering on sporting or athletic events. WWE is sports entertainment. The 'matches' are predetermined by the company and are scripted. There is no regulation body for professional wrestling, and WWE is one of several companies that offers this type of entertainment. With a predetermined outcome, this would not be considered a sport. It is considered entertainment. Wagering on the Oscars, for example, is also not permitted in Connecticut."

That last part is significant, since CNBC's report mentioned that WWE executives were using Oscar betting as an example for regulators.

Maine and Montana agree with most of their colleagues

Two states specifically cited the statements from Colorado, Indiana, Michigan, and New Hampshire in their responses. After hearing that four other states had expressed skepticism over betting on WWE, Maine Gambling Control Unit Executive Director Milton Champion said, "On the surface, without looking into the matter, I would concur with my colleagues. Operators will submit with their application events that they want to take wagers on, and I shall approve them."

Daniel Iverson, Content Manager for the Montana Lottery, said something similar. "Montana does not intend to add WWE markets, for the same reasons our counterparts cited," he advised, before directing any questions on state law to the Montana Department of Justice Gambling Control Division.

New Jersey and Massachusetts punted, for now

Two states we contacted declined to comment on the matter, not wanting to address issues that haven't come before them yet. Thomas Mills, Communications Division Chief of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said, "I appreciate your question, but am unable to speculate on a hypothetical action the Commission may or may not take."

Dan Prochilo, Public Information Officer at the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, responded that "The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) cannot comment on any hypothetical discussion with an operator or league about future sports betting opportunities." He added that "In New Jersey, an entity seeking permission for a contest to be authorized for wagering on a sports event is required to submit its proposal to DGE for evaluation and approval pursuant to state law and regulations."

Prochilo also provided the state's legal definition of a "sports event" for the purposes of gambling. Notably, it includes the phrase "A 'sports event' shall include any live competition or talent contest, including awards competitions[.]"

New Jersey and Massachusetts are two of the only states that allow betting on the Oscars, with New Jersey okaying it in 2019 (the first state to do so) and Massachusetts greenlighting it in 2023. It's unknown if WWE will approach either state or how each state would respond, but at bare minimum, WWE's argument to treat wrestling like the Oscars for betting purposes might carry some weight.

Washington and New Mexico illustrate the challenges of Tribal gaming

Washington is unique among the states who responded to us, in that sports wagering is only available on Tribal lands yet still regulated by the state. Sports wagering was legalized, subject to terms of Tribal/State Compacts, on Tribal lands in 2020. All wagering, even online betting, must take place on Tribal lands, and each casino decides bets within certain limitations. The Angel of the Winds Casino and Resort and the ilani Casino Resort, for example, don't 100% overlap on sports offered for betting.

But WWE, or any wrestling, won't be joining those offering under current rules and regulations. Dan Wegenast, Agent In Charge for the Tribal Gaming Unit of the Washington State Gambling Commission, pointed Wrestling Inc. towards the Tribal/State Compacts for sports wagering. He also stated that "Washington State law and the Tribal/State Compacts for sports wagering ... prohibit wagers on events with known outcomes."

To further illustrate the complications of garnering approval for gaming on Tribal lands, a representative from the New Mexican Gaming Control Board told Wrestling Inc. that sports betting is illegal in their state, but legal with some Tribes. That said, New Mexico does not regulate Tribal gaming, meaning that approval would likely have to be worked out with each Tribe individually.

There are other obstacles, too

It's worth noting that gambling laws are constantly changing. Many states without gambling –- such as North Carolina -– have spent years hammering out legislation that would approve gambling off Tribal lands. Additionally, for states with legalized gambling, internal policies are not inherently laws, and can be subject to change under the right circumstances.

That said, even if WWE manages to get gambling on matches approved anywhere, that's only one part of the battle: They still need casinos and/or sportsbooks to be willing to accept wagers at all, and there's resistance in this field, as well, as demonstrated in subsequent coverage from CNBC. FanDuel deems it unlikely that they'd ever accept bets on WWE, noting that the Academy Awards –- which held once per year -– are vastly different than dealing with WWE's weekly programming. Additionally, when BetCEO Adam Greenblatt was asked if he had any interesting in accepting bets on WWE, he responded "NFW."

Between the overwhelming majority opinions of the 13 states who responded to Wrestling Inc., the states that have already responded, and the reluctance of sportsbooks to include anything that looks less than credible, WWE faces an increasingly uphill battle if they want to make betting on wrestling matches legal anywhere in the United States.