MGM Resorts, Jets forge gaming partnership, first deal of its kind

MGM Resorts has signed a gaming partnership with the New York Jets, the first NFL deal that involves more than a casino sponsorship.

The deal includes a game named "I Called It," in which fans can answer questions about what will happen in the Jets game's future.

The game, which lives exclusively within the Jets app, is sponsored by MGM's app, Play MGM.

"I Called It" falls within the parameters of the NFL's new rules that permit gaming partnerships but not gambling relationships.

Despite the fact that the Jets' home, MetLife Stadium, is in New Jersey, where sports betting is legal and is second in revenue to Nevada, the game can only provide winners with prizes and doesn't allow fans to wager, Jets president Neil Glat said.

The PlayMGM app can be freely promoted because it includes both free games and paid games.

"We can promote our app and our casino, which is valuable to us because it could lead to a sports betting customer, even though the NFL won't allow us to have a specific call to action," said Scott Butera, MGM's president of interactive gaming. "We love the demographic that Jets fans provide. They have high household incomes in an area where sports betting is now legal."

The deal also includes in-stadium signage and the sponsorship of the Jets studio, where the team films television and digital media content, and with MGM hotels, primarily the Borgata in Atlantic City, which took its first sports wager on June 14.

Jets season-ticket holders and team rewards members will have the chance to win premium entertainment experiences and get free hotel rooms from the relationship. In turn, MGM can use the Jets logo at the Borgata, but not in any way associated with its sports gambling business.

New Jersey's Division of Gaming Enforcement reported that sportsbooks within the state took in $184 million in wagers during September, with more than half of it on mobile and nearly half of all bets on NFL games.

While it doesn't immediately benefit the bottom line, MGM hopes the sponsorship increases downloads of the app within the state.

MGM was second in the state to unlock sports betting within its app, but it was only for Android devices. The sports-betting update for Apple users went through approvals last week.

DraftKings, which rolled out its app on Aug. 1, said last week that it took 67 percent of the mobile business in the state in September, thanks to being the first mover in a market that now has eight competitors. Competition for MGM can also be seen on the Meadowlands property where MetLife Stadium sits. That's the site of FanDuel's brick-and-mortar sportsbook, which did $4.3 million in revenue in September, more than any other New Jersey sports-betting retail operation.

Two sports gambling outfits that do business in New Jersey -- William Hill and Caesars -- recently struck deals with the New Jersey Devils to have a premium space inside the Prudential Center, where the companies will have ambassadors encouraging fans to download their mobile apps.

"It's definitely a race," Butera said. "But we're built to last."

Two NFL teams have sponsorship deals with casinos as part of the new rules that were implemented this season. The Dallas Cowboys have a deal with Winstar World Casino & Resort in Oklahoma, and the Baltimore Ravens struck a deal with Horseshoe Casino.

The category is expected to be more lucrative for the Jets, as MGM's deal is not exclusive to the category. The team has already sold some advertising assets to 888.com, which has a sports-betting app in New Jersey.

MGM is already the exclusive official gaming sponsor of the NBA, a sponsorship designation that comes with nonexclusive data rights. MGM was also announced this week as an official betting partner of the NHL in another nonexclusive sponsorship that comes with data.