UFC Parent Endeavor’s $9.3B Merger With WWE Could Affect US Sports Betting
Changes may be coming to a certain segment of US sports betting.
Endeavor Group, owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), announced this week they plan to buy out the World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) franchise in a $9 billion deal. That may mean that the WWE, long shunned by US bookmakers because of its predetermined scripts, may soon be part of the US betting landscape.
Endeavor is buying up 51% of the shares in WWE, leaving the remainder to current long-standing owner Vince McMahon.
WWE has long been the premier wrestling brand, cornering the international market for decades. Despite competition in recent years from newer brands like AEW, they still posted $1 billion in revenue for 2022.
Mixed Martial Arts combat league UFC, on the other hand, is one of the fastest-growing sports franchises in the world. They also generated more than $1 billion in revenue in 2022.
This new merger will create one of the biggest sports/entertainment companies globally.
Betting on the Cards
But while UFC betting has been part of the appeal of the sport dating from when legalization started in the US, the results in the WWE are predetermined by the company for entertainment value. So, sports betting has been off the table, for the most part.
In Nevada, the original legal gambling state, every new sports betting market has to meet strict criteria before it can be submitted to regulators for approval. (You can see a comprehensive list here).
This has basically always excluded the WWE, because despite the undeniable athleticism and skill behind it, the outcomes are scripted.
And it’s not just the outcomes of the matches, either.
WWE bouts, intentionally, often come with huge swings of fortune between competitors to make things more exciting – meaning any bet lines can swing dramatically. This opens up bookmakers to huge potential losses, as the underdog can suddenly become the favorite within seconds of a match starting.
One American WWE bettor, who uses offshore casinos to bet online, told ESPN that he had seen the odds line on a bout swing some 2000 points during the opening five minutes.
For this reason, even offshore sportsbooks tend to put market caps on WWE bets, often at $100 or less.
The whole situation makes it unlikely that many mainstream sportsbooks in legal states would be willing to take bets on WWE matches.
A New Contender
However, the scene could all change very soon. Rumors swirled just last month that WWE reps had been in contact with regulators in Colorado, Michigan, and Indiana with an eye on offering sports bets on their matches.
However, all three states have since put out statements saying they were never contacted by the WWE, or simply outright rejected the idea.
But with the backing of powerhouse Endeavor and the “real” sport of the UFC behind any future moves? Regulators may be more friendly towards the idea.
Endeavor just last year bought into the sports betting market, with the acquisition of platform and technology supplier OpenBet.
This presented them with a long list of sportsbook clients in the US who use OpenBet’s services. That includes big names like DraftKings, FanDuel, and William Hill, among others. That gives Endeavor a vested interest in expanding the market.