Back in August 2018, Buffalo Wild Wings said it was “actively exploring opportunities” to add betting to its menu. This in wake of a Supreme Court call that opened the door for states to legalize sports wagering.
A company spokesperson told CNN Money at the time, “As the largest sports bar in America, we believe Buffalo Wild Wings is uniquely positioned to leverage sports gaming to enhance the restaurant experience for our guests.”
That day is getting much closer. The 1,200-unit brand announced a deal September 5 it believes has the potential to “revolutionize” the sports bar experience. Buffalo Wild Wings is joining forces with MGM Resorts International and its sports-betting venture, Roar Digital, for a multi-year partnership. The chain said it’s a “first-of-its-kind” alignment between a national sports bar and a gaming leader.
In accordance with applicable regulatory requirements, the partnership will deliver sports gaming experiences at a national scale inside Buffalo Wild Wings’ restaurants through MGM’s digital gaming platform, BetMGM.
Inspire Brands’ chicken-wing giant added the deal is expected to spawn collaborations inside MGM properties and sports books, including a new Buffalo Wild Wings sports bar slated to open at Mandalay Bay in 2020.
Buffalo Wild Wings pointed out that the alignment is a future-focused deal. It will capitalize on opportunities, the company said, as states continue to pass sports betting legislation. However, consumers will begin to experience BetMGM at Buffalo Wild Wings as early as this week.
The partnership kicked off September 5 with a free-to-play football game available nationwide. Plans also include a sports betting test program in New Jersey later this year with the goal of expanding to additional markets as legislation passes.
“Our partnership with Buffalo Wild Wings is an important development in MGM and Roar’s position as the leader in sports entertainment and betting,” said MGM Resorts Chairman and CEO Jim Murren in a statement. “With more than 1,200 sports bars across the country, Buffalo Wild Wings is firmly established as a ‘go to’ venue for sports viewing in all of its markets. Adding access to MGM’s world class properties and the BetMGM mobile app will create unique customer experiences and redefine how fans enjoy sports.”
Added Lyle Tick, Buffalo Wild Wings’ president: “As the largest sports bar in the country, Buffalo Wild Wings has the opportunity to pioneer sports gaming experiences for fans, and we are taking the first critical step on that journey through our partnership with BetMGM. This is a landmark relationship between two preeminent experience brands that puts us in a position to innovate the current sports watching experience to bring the best of sports gaming to our guests.”
What’s in store?
The first consumer-facing product will be “Picks and Props.” The free, mobile-only football game, which hits nationwide today in tandem with the NFL season, offers a seamless sports betting-like experience with no stakes attached. Users can win prizes like trips to Las Vegas to place a parlay bet for the Super Bowl that could pay out at $1 million, or to Borgata in New Jersey to compete in the first BetMGM sports betting competing.
The “Picks and Props” game is available through Buffalo Wild Wings’ Blazin’ Rewards app. Users make game picks based on the spread, answer prop questions, and choose top fantasy performers for the week.
And while people can play anywhere, they must check in at a Buffalo Wild Wings location between Thursday and Sunday to be eligible for prizes. That last feature can’t be understated as Buffalo Wild Wings continues to work to attract guests from the couch to the booth.
Buffalo Wild Wings’ sports-betting test program in New Jersey will offer exclusive perks, such as enhanced odds and free bets, when the BetMGM app is accessed inside Buffalo Wild Wings. Expect this to expand as registration allows. And, again, the in-store activation element is key.
In the future
Buffalo Wild Wings and BetMGM have additional plans, including:
Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars across the country will begin showcasing custom sports book content on TV screens inside the sports bars, featuring live odds provided by BetMGM.
At least three new Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars are expected to open within MGM properties or in partnership with BetMGM as additional states come online—the first is expected to open in mid-2020 inside Mandalay Bay, which is adjacent to the site of the new Las Vegas pro football stadium.
“Buffalo Wild Wings is a perfect complement to our best-in-class sports betting and igaming products as they are leaders in serving up exciting and innovative game day experiences. This multi-year relationship will strengthen as states adopt sports betting regulations, with strategies already in place to drive customer adoption, engagement and loyalty,” said Adam Greenblatt, CEO of Roar Digital, which is the 50/50 venture established in July 2018 between MGM Resorts International and GVC Holdings.
Buffalo Wild Wings said it will support the partnership with co-marketing initiatives with BetMGM across digital and social media platforms.
For background, the U.S. Supreme Court removed a federal law in May 2018 that restricted legal sports betting to primarily Nevada for the last 26 years.