While Super Bowl Sunday tends to be a time for sports fans to attend parties that, frankly, include a significant contingent of family and friends more interested in the commercials than the kickoffs, Conference Championship Sunday is another matter. On the latter day, it’s all about the football.
That tends to be good for sports bars such as Buffalo Wild Wings – and for casinos such as MGM Resorts properties. So Sunday’s Chiefs-Titans and 49ers-Packers games will, to some extent, wrap up the first season of a creative partnership between the sports bar chain of more than 1,200 restaurants – it’s the largest such chain in the U.S. – and the 30-casino/hotel property giant.
Complicating matters, of course, is that not only do fewer than half of states so far allow sports betting, only a fraction of those that do also permit mobile wagering. That has led to a two-pronged approach by the joint venture.
The Jersey version
The companies last fall launched a pilot program in New Jersey, which with a staggering $3.8 billion in mobile bets placed in the state in 2019 is the national leader on that front by several orders of magnitude.
Head to any New Jersey BWW – whether Wayne, Parsippany, or Secaucus in the north or Toms River, Brick, or Marlboro further south – and you’ll likely notice on the front door a sign reading “BET ON SPORTS HERE,” along with the Buffalo Wild Wings logo in tandem with the logo of BetMGM, which is the company’s digital gaming platform.
Only Atlantic City’s casinos and the state’s racetracks are authorized to take bets directly, so a customer asking about the betting is directed to their own smartphone – not a kiosk.
Access the BetMGM app – which you’ll be advised to do – while at the Buffalo Wild Wings location, and in New Jersey you can find perks such as enhanced odds and free bets.
Once geolocation technology detects that you are in New Jersey, the BWW app can provide direct links to BetMGM. And as part of the deal, BetMGM can feature live odds on the numerous TVs around each bar – raising consumer awareness of the legal gambling option.
The program is expected to expand to other states later in 2020 – with Pennsylvania and its burgeoning mobile wagering seeming like the best bet of all.
The national version
Regardless of a state’s level of authorization of sports betting – or even if there is none – a visitor to any Buffalo Wild Wings in the U.S. can play a “Picks and Props” free mobile football game that the companies describe as a “sports betting-like experience.”
What does that mean? After downloading BWW’s “Blazin’ Rewards” app, consumers predict the result of games against a point spread, answer prop bet questions, and predict who will be the top fantasy football players that week.
A key tie-in for BWW is that while customers can play the game at home, to be eligible for prizes – the top one being trips to MGM properties in Las Vegas or to an invite to a sports betting competition at the Borgata in New Jersey – that fan has to “check in” at a BWW location between Thursday and Sunday.
The whole process clearly is designed to make non-betting sports fans aware of their options. While some will never stray beyond free-to-play games, others will look to risk some money. And when they do, the chicken wing chain is recommending that they do so at BetMGM.
“This is a big step for us nationwide to start to step into the culture of sports betting, and educating and informing our guests about it,” Brandon Gill, the Director of Experience and Gaming at Buffalo Wild Wings, told njonlinegambling.com. “But it’s not like we’re ever going to be taking bets.”
“Our team and technology prompt our guests with two ways to extend their game-day entertainment experience in sports betting states,” Gill added. “We prompt guests to play F2P [free-to-play] games to win great prizes when on location, and we leverage our games, apps, and screens to drive those interested [in sports betting] to join BetMGM and engage on their platform. We’re pleased with the initial results we’ve seen.”
Gill and Matt Prevost, the chief marketing officer at Roar Digital – the joint sports betting venture of MGM and GVC Holdings and another partner in this deal – each said that plans already are in the works for a series of new promotions based on the “March Madness” NCAA basketball tournament.
They also said that while there are plenty of other gaming and sports bar companies, the BWW-MGM deal is “exclusive” – and for multiple years.
As one might expect, plans are in the works for at least three new BWW sports bars to be located inside MGM casinos in states that have sports betting. One is planned for a mid-2020 opening at Mandalay Bay, the MGM casino adjacent to the site of the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium.
The “co-marketing initiatives” will include joint efforts across all digital and social media platforms – which means that if you have a BetMGM or a BWW app, you’re bound to notice the crossover enticements. The crossover between sports bettors and chicken wing-and-beer customers does seem to be a strong one.