Is The MGM-Buffalo Wild Wings Partnership Especially Attractive For Tennessee Market?

The combination of wings, beer, and sports betting sounds cliché, but it should be a successful recipe under a new partnership between MGM (and its sports betting venture Roar Digital) and Buffalo Wild Wings.

The deal, which makes BetMGM the official sports betting platform for BWW locations, applies nationwide, but it could be more useful in states without any casinos or brick-and-mortar sports betting locations. That’s the case with Tennessee, which legalized sports betting this year and is slowly but surely moving forward with implementing an online/mobile-only law.

BWW is the nation’s largest sports-bar chain, and it has 26 locations in the Volunteer State.

“In states where real-money sports wagering has been legalized, MGM intends to offer mobile wagering inside BWW restaurants through the BetMGM app,” wrote Sports Handle’s Matt Rybaltowski in a recent article. “In states that have yet to approve legal sports betting, MGM will focus on the free, predictive contest … For now, MGM is not looking to open any bricks-and-mortar sportsbooks inside BWW.”

In Tennessee, MGM could not have a sportsbook inside any BWW, as the law wouldn’t allow kiosks. Betting at Tennessee BWW locations would be confined to mobile devices or laptops.

Key BWW locations in Tennessee

Of course, BWW restaurants that are in densely populated areas are going to perform better than their counterparts that are not. However, thanks to Tennessee being an early adopter of sports betting, with several bordering states not having legal wagering, some locations along the state line could become popular destinations for those visiting Tennessee.

Tennessee is expecting about 3.5 mm of its annual visitors to engage in sports wagering.

A BWW in Chattanooga, which sits close to the border with Georgia and is less than a two-hour drive from downtown Atlanta, could be attractive for Georgians looking to bet. Same goes for a BWW location in Clarksville, which sits on the border with Kentucky. BWW locations in Memphis could also draw guests from Mississippi, as the Magnolia State has failed to legalize online/mobile wagering.

MGM licensing in Tennessee

There is no official list of companies looking for entry into the Tennessee sports wagering market, which will be regulated by the Tennessee Education Lottery Corporation, but MGM is almost a lock to seek a license for offering betting in the Volunteer State. It will have to compete with the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings, which can offer stand-alone online/mobile platforms untethered to a brick-and-mortar casino.

The sports wagering presence that MGM will have at BWW retail locations should give it an advantage over its competitors, though it’s hard to quantify at this time. It’s worth noting that Tennessee sports wagering regulations have not been crafted yet, so it’s unclear right now if there will be any rules that could adversely impact the MGM-BWW partnership.

According to Sports Handle, BWW could seek to geofence its locations so that online/mobile apps from BetMGM competitors wouldn’t work inside BWW.

It’s unclear if Tennessee would allow that, as it would restrict consumer choice and potentially decrease tax revenue for the state if bettors can’t access their preferred platform inside a BWW. TN Bets will always advocate for price shopping when looking to place a bet on any sporting event, so the MGM-BWW deal could end up being unfriendly to some consumers.

Timeline for Tennessee sports betting

State Rep. Rick Staples, a Democrat who spearheaded the sports wagering legislative effort, told TN Bets recently that online/mobile will be live in his state ahead of the 2020 Super Bowl.

All signs point to the timeline still being on target, as the TELC recently allowed companies to submit requests for a licensing application.

A majority of the nine-member Sports Wagering Advisory Council has also been finalized, making it so the panel can soon conduct official business and hold votes.