Buffalo Wild Wings tackles sports betting with MGM Resorts deal

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Sports fans will be able to place a wager while ordering a beer and a snack this fall after a landmark deal between embattled restaurant chain Buffalo Wild Wings and casino giant MGM Resorts.

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As part of a multiyear deal with MGM and its sports betting arm, Roar Digital, Buffalo Wild Wings is rolling out a free-to-play mobile game accessible through its “Blazin’ Rewards” app. Customers can win prizes for correctly choosing game outcomes or top performers – but only if they check in at a Buffalo Wild Wings restaurant between Thursday and Sunday.

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The restaurant chain will explore full-fledged sports gambling later this year through a test program at select locations in New Jersey, where mobile sports betting is legal. The pilot program will offer customers perks for using the BetMGM app at select Buffalo Wild Wings locations in the state, with plans to expand the test to more states in the future.

“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,” Buffalo Wild Wings president Lyle Tick said in a statement. “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.”

The partnership was announced as legal sports betting gains traction in a growing number of states. At present, 19 states have legalized sports gambling in some form, while seven have legalized mobile gaming. Nearly 40 million Americans will place a wager on an NFL game, according to a survey by the American Gaming Association.

Buffalo Wild Wings operates roughly 1,200 locations around the U.S. and has revamped its business strategy in recent months in a bid to reverse sagging sales and store traffic. The chain first confirmed its intention to pursue sports betting opportunities in August 2018.

MGM has invested heavily in sports betting properties since the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a longstanding federal ban on wagers in 2017. The casino giant reached a three year, $25 million deal to serve as the NBA’s official sports betting partner in July 2018 and has a similar partnership with the NFL’s New York Jets.

In addition, MGM partnered with now-defunct Alliance of American Football on a sports gaming platform. The company acquired rights to AAF’s gambling technology for just $125,000 in June as part of bankruptcy proceedings.

“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. “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.”

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Buffalo Wild Wings said televisions at its restaurants will display custom sportsbook content, including live odds, at some point in the future. The chain also will open at least three locations within MGM properties in states where sports betting is legal.

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