A new partnership hints at the potential future of sports bars around the country.
While it might feel ages ago, it was only September 2019 when Buffalo Wild Wings unveiled one of biggest in-store activations of the year. The company announced a deal with MGM Resorts International and its sports-betting venture, Roar Digital, on a multi-year partnership it claimed could “revolutionize” the sports-bar experience. It marked a first-of-its-kind alignment between a national sports bar and gaming entity, and progressed a conversation mounting for some time.
The previous August, Buffalo Wild Wings said it was “actively exploring opportunities” to add betting following a Supreme Court decision that opened the door for states to legalize sports wagering.
Naturally, the idea was alluring. Restaurants across every category grappled with sliding traffic in the years leading up to COVID-19. The common culprit being an expanding industry, one growing at twice the rate of the population. Too many options, two few customers, and not enough money to go around. In turn, restaurants looked to more willing spenders of a younger generation, and check averages climbed to cover some of the traffic gaps.
For sports bars in particular, the issue was compounded on multiple fronts. Big-screen TVs in households across the country. Streaming options and the rise of mobile viewing.
So the ability to factor betting into the visit equation offered game-changing potential.
Buffalo Wild Wings began the partnership with a free-to-play football game available nationwide, “Picks and Props.” The key was the mobile-only game was available through Buffalo Wild Wings’ Blazin’ Rewards App. And while it was live to play anywhere, customers had to check in at a physical Buffalo Wild Wings location between Thursday and Sunday to actually redeem prizes. Since, more than 500,000 users have participated in BWW and BetMGM free-to-play games, the company said.
Then came a sports-betting test in New Jersey that offered exclusive perks, such as enhanced odds and free bets, when the BetMGM app was accessed inside Buffalo Wild Wings.
Of course, COVID blurred the partnership’s progress as survival tactics surged to the forefront. Yet that’s about to change.
Buffalo Wild Wings Thursday unveiled a new exclusive launch with BetMGM. Guests can now access a sports betting experience, including better odds on select bets, when placing bets on personal device through the BetMGM app while inside Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars in New Jersey, Indiana, Colorado, West Virginia, Tennessee, and Iowa.
The BetMGM app uses geolocation technology to offer custom promotions and bet types for guests—a first in the industry, the company said.
“Fans wagering on sports inside Buffalo Wild Wings can now win bigger on select bets thanks to our innovative partnership with BetMGM,” said Rita Patel, Buffalo Wild Wings CMO, in a statement. “As sports betting continues to grow throughout the country, we look forward to further expanding our footprint in the space and activating our partnership with BetMGM in ways that make the experience at our sports bars second to none.”
Buffalo Wild Wings and BetMGM worked together to build curated boosted odds promotions specifically for customers who show up to the restaurant in those markets. Boosted odds promotions offer a better potential payout for the same amount of risk on certain bets.
Essentially, Buffalo Wild Wings diners can gain larger payouts if their boosted Blazin’ Bet wager wins.
And, again, they’ll need to come visit the restaurant to do so.
The partnership also enhanced the sign-up offer for bettors in and out of the sports bar. Buffalo Wild Wings’ guests who are new users of the BetMGM app will receive a 100 percent deposit match in their account up to $500 and earn a $20 electronic gift card to Buffalo Wild Wings.
Additionally—and this might present the most promise down the line—Buffalo Wild Wings created an in-bar channel called “OT Odds Powered by BetMGM.” The network will air on select big screens throughout restaurants and deliver sports-betting content like live-game odds, as well as fantasy and betting advice from FantasyPros and BettingPros.
In states where mobile sports betting is legal, curated boosts, bets, and parlays in the form of a new and exclusive Blazin’ Bets offering within the BetMGM app will be available to users. The company said its OT Odds Powered by BetMGM will be streamed exclusive by UPshow.
This goes back to the earlier challenge facing sports bars, even before a pandemic was tossed in. Was it enough to carry the “big game” to get people off the couch? And how could brands shoulder non-peak periods with content worth showing up for? Especially in a time when all of that information and entertainment is available not just in consumers’ homes, but from their mobile devices?
According to the American Gaming Association and reported by Vox, legal sports betting saw more than $17 billion in wagers and $1.2 billion in revenue—in just 14 states where sports betting is legal and data is available—since the aforementioned Supreme Court decision that reversed a decades-long federal ban in June 2018.
With just daily fantasy sports, or DFS, which aligns with the in-bar channel activation, DraftKings reported $213 million in revenue in 2019 at 60 percent of the market share. DFS as a whole brought in more than $350 million in revenue that year.
Before the 2018 call, Nevada was the only state that offered legal sports betting. That was the case for 26 years. Nineteen additional states and the District of Columbia followed, with ESPN saying in November two dozen more were on their way.
According to market research from Sports Type, the global fantasy sports market was valued at $18.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach 48.6 billion by 2027.
In other words, fantasy sports and gambling might be the future (and current) play for sports bars looking to lure in diners, not just airing the local or primetime game. The idea of streaming multiple games across multiple TVs will always hold value, but so will the ability to feature constantly updating fantasy data and advice, as well as betting outlets.
“Our partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings is incredibly innovative and the introduction of geolocation technology to offer bettors a customized experience available only when in a Buffalo Wild Wings location is a great example of the unique experiences we’re able to activate with our partnership,” said Matt Prevost, chief revenue officer, BetMGM, in a statement. “We’re truly at the forefront of redefining how fans enjoy sports and look forward to expanding on BetMGM integrations with Buffalo Wild Wings.”
Buffalo Wild Wings’ Picks and Props free-to-play game, available since the partnership’s 2019 launch, recently received a design upgrades as well. It now includes an updated parlay-style gameplay with new BetMGM elements.
Picks can be made daily using BetMGM odds from any state where free-to-play games are permitted by law, and prices are awarded on a monthly basis.
Selected winners will be inducted into a newly created BWW Hall of Fame, which consists of a $300 gift card, personalized bust, letterman jacket, and a shout out on Buffalo Wild Wings OT network.