Sports betting possibilities are getting Wild

Aug 21, 2018 3:10 AM

It was no great surprise when GamingToday’s Micah Roberts first revealed a few weeks ago that the owners at Buffalo Wild Wings are looking beyond chicken wings and beer to offer sports betting in legal, regulated markets. The story went national in a heartbeat and at least ESPN gave Micah the credit for breaking the news.

Quickly, Buffalo Wild Wings, the largest sports-bar chain in the country, confirmed the GamingToday story announcing it is “actively exploring” sports betting in its restaurants.

About three years ago, an old Las Vegas friend was working for Stats the Chicago-based sports information provider. He called asking about parlay cards for Buffalo Wild Wings locations in Southern Nevada. Such cards, offering cash and prizes are legal, but only if there is no fee to play one.

The conversation went nowhere fast.

Now, with the company’s bookmaking aspirations again in the news, let’s take a look at what they are proposing and why.

Never one to mince words, Jon Taffer, the host of “Bar Rescue” on Paramount Network, says the introduction of legal sports betting could save the food and beverage service industry, and stabilize faltering NFL TV ratings.

“The fringe fans that sort of like football will bet two dollars. Suddenly, they’re involved,” Taffer said in an interview on Cheddar, the internet news site. “It’s an opportunity to involve fans more, but also pull in fringe fans through what I am going to call nominal betting.”

Taffer’s quotes seem to indicate, to him at least, this is a recent revelation, but his words merely echo what proponents of national sports betting have been saying all along. That is: sports betting creates added interest in the games (that can be monetized), especially football.

Taffer, a consultant for struggling bars and restaurants, said younger fans are often more frugal and, generally speaking, choose to stay home. The NFL, despite its status as the most viewed sport in the United States, has faced declining viewership the last few years.

You may be aware that the sports leagues and the broadcast networks are combatting the trend of decreasing engagement by the younger audience. You may not have been aware that many of the once hugely popular restaurant chains are struggling, as well.

Buffalo Wild Wings itself was purchased by Arby’s parent company Roark Capital for $2.9 billion in November 2017. The roast beef sandwich chain, once only famous for that and its delightful jamocha milkshakes, now has an expanded menu and sales have picked up in recent years. In acquiring the company, it’s believed some of the Arby’s resurgence can rub off on Buffalo Wild Wings.

A consumer revolution toward healthy eating is being blamed for the sales slump at numerous restaurant chains, including Buffalo Wild Wings, Chili’s, BJ’s, Cheesecake Factory and many, many others. Industry observers say because these chains are serving up mostly high-calorie delights, health-conscious customers are starting to stay away. In 2017, The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) released its annual list identifying the unhealthiest restaurant meals in America. Chains leading the way then included Texas Roadhouse, Chili’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

For example, Buffalo Wild Wings’ Cheese Curd Bacon Burger contains 1,620 calories, and that’s before you add fries or sides – and don’t forget the beer! Many of these chains do have healthier options, but seeing it on the menu and having enough willpower to order it are two different things. Take it from one who knows.

The issue isn’t simply a matter of calories. It’s more important to have a menu that feels fresh and appeals to customers. As Janet Lowder of the consulting firm, Restaurant Management Services, told the Los Angeles Times, regarding this sector of the restaurant business, “It’s a segment of the industry that needs to have some new strategies.”

So now Buffalo Wild Wings wants to put sports betting on the menu. It has no calories, but can cause your wallet to lose a little weight.

Becoming a bookmaker may not be the direction the casual dining chains want to take. It might be better to make a deal with an established sports bet-taking company and promote their mobile app as a means of turning the restaurant into a legal sportsbook. Right now, most major Nevada bookmakers have mobile apps that allow sports and even horse betting wherever you are in the state, including Buffalo Wild Wings.

Look for Golden Entertainment, owner of all the PT’s bar/restaurants and other brand names in Nevada to promote sports betting when the rapidly expanding casino and distributed gaming company gets its mobile app up and running. You may also see a relaxing of current Nevada regulations that generally force mobile bettors to visit a casino to deposit funds or withdraw money from betting accounts. New Jersey’s new rules for mobile betting allow mobile deposits and withdrawals.

Also, look for a promotion that gets you a free beer with a minimum bet and similar types of marketing. Taverns that hook up with bookmakers and their mobile sports betting apps could negotiate for a small piece of every bet made there. The technology for this already exists. Some licensing issues may have to be resolved by regulators in various states, but that should be no problem. In any case, PT’s, through owner Golden Entertainment, is completely licensed already in Nevada, Montana, Maryland and Illinois.

While I’m making suggestions to Buffalo Wild Wings that may be worth what they are paying me for them (nothing) – how about including celery in all wing orders instead of making them an extra.

Selling wings without celery is like selling sneakers without laces. Just thought I’d mention that.