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Buffalo Wild Wings adds sports betting

Under a deal with MGM Resorts, customers will vie initially for prizes instead of cash, and can only collect on-premise. The chain will also develop sports bars within MGM properties.
Photograph courtesy of Buffalo Wild Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings (BWW) is easing into sports betting through a multiyear agreement with casino operator MGM Resorts International and its online sports-gaming arm, Roar Digital. 

The casual-dining chain stresses that the deal is long-range in scope, with customers initially trying Roar’s online sportsbook without actually wagering money. True betting will be tested deeper into the football season at BWWs in New Jersey, one of the states that has legalized online sports betting. Sports fans who use Roar’s BetMGM app to place cash wagers while inside a BWW restaurant will be rewarded with perks, including enhanced odds and free bets. 

That arrangement will be duplicated in other states that have legalized online sports betting, and will expand to others as they drop their prohibitions on online sports gaming.

The deal also calls for the opening of Buffalo Wild Wings sports bars inside MGM casino properties or as part of a BetMGM sportsbook, starting in 2020 with MGM’s Mandalay Bay resort-hotel in Las Vegas. At least two more locations will follow, according to BWW.

The cash-free betting starts today. Users of BWW’s loyalty app can test their football acumen by picking the winners of upcoming NFL games and, just as in fantasy football, what individual players will shine in those contests. Though no money will be riding on the choices, the handicappers can win a trip to Las Vegas or New Jersey casinos and other noncash prizes. The “betting” can be done anywhere, but winners have to enter a BWW to claim their payoffs.

BWW dabbled last football season with online sports betting through a deal with DraftKings, one of the larger online sportsbooks. In that arrangement, BWW customers could essentially build fantasy teams from squads that were playing that day. Astute picks could earn the players noncash payoffs such as free food or loyalty-program points.

The arrangement with MGM is far more extensive. It even extends to the inclusion of sportsbook-type content in BWW’s in-store TV programming. 

“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,” BWW President Lyle Tick said in a statement. He called it a “landmark relationship.” 

The 1,200-unit chain, like much of casual dining, has been looking for and experimenting with new customers to offset the segment’s soft traffic. BWW recently resurrected its two-for-one wings deal on Tuesday nights. It is also rolling out a new prototype that features attractions such as an area where patrons can watch or engage in esports.

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