DraftKings reinvesting in its successful NJ online casino

DraftKings Builds Out NJ Online Casino With Scientific Games Deal

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Scientific Games (SG) announced on Thursday that it struck a deal with DraftKings.

The new partnership will see DraftKings integrate the SG OpenGaming platform into its New Jersey online casino. That, in turn, gives it access to SG’s full catalog of games, as well as associated third-party content.

Simply, the deal gives DraftKings Casino a huge boost in variety.

Although the site has come a long way since its full launch in January 2019, its available titles still number in the high double-digits. By contrast, longer-established NJ online gambling sites, like Golden Nugget and Caesars, have many hundreds of game options.

Scientific Games, for its part, will increase its footprint in the Garden State significantly.

DraftKings Casino + Scientific Games

DraftKings was founded in 2011 and became a household name in 2015 thanks to massive ad spend. For most of its life, however, it was exclusively a daily fantasy sports (DFS) operator.

That changed when the repeal of PASPA opened the door to widespread legal sports betting in the US. The company was quick to leverage its DFS success in the sports betting space, launching DraftKings Sportsbook in five states with several more to come.

DraftKings is far less known for its casino vertical, which debuted a little over a year ago. It’s only available in New Jersey for the time being, though we could see a DraftKings Casino launch in other states down the road.

Scientific Games is a business-to-business company offering a wide variety of gambling-related services, both online and off. Though headquartered in Nevada, much of its business is abroad. It employs nearly 10,000 people worldwide, including 1,600 folks in its digital division.

OpenGaming fuses customer management, content

Scientific’s OpenGaming suite launched in October last year. It’s a fusion of two previously-existing services, the Open Gaming content distribution system and the Open Platform player management system.

Integrating the two into a single “ecosystem” has allowed the company to implement some new technology.

The day before the DraftKings announcement, for instance, it unveiled a “Free Rounds” feature. While most online casinos offer free spins to players as an incentive, they typically apply only to specific games. With free rounds, however, operators can give players a choice to spend their free spins on any game on the OpenGaming platform.

That may not sound like a huge deal, but an extensive selection of games is only beneficial if players are willing to explore the variety on offer.

A rapidly expanding SG catalog

That selection can be very large, indeed if operators want. Already, OpenGaming includes over 2,500 games. Scientific Games developed some of these, while others are by third-party game studios.

Naturally, DraftKings won’t want to offer all those games. However, with that many options, the extent of its offerings is limited by its own judgment rather than the number of games it has at its disposal.

The number of third-party studios working with SG is also rapidly on the rise.

In October, for instance, the company extended its relationship with Evolution Gaming, which provides live dealer games. That’s not so important for DraftKings, which has an existing partnership with Evolution. It will, however, be a big draw for any online casino that doesn’t already offer the format.

More importantly to DraftKings, SG struck a content deal with Everi in November. Everi is a leading manufacturer of slot machines, and its physical-reel titles are particularly popular.

Other online casinos have been rushing to Everi to sign deals to offer digital adaptations of those stepper slots, so having some of those in the OpenGaming catalog is a win for DraftKings.

Scientific Games client list grows

DraftKings is an important addition to Scientific Games’ roster of clients. It’s far from the only big name on that list, however, nor the only recent addition.

Several New Jersey casinos have chosen SG to provide their platform for sports betting and/or online casino. That includes the likes of Caesars and Golden Nugget, as well as DraftKings’ land-based partner Resorts Casino.

Kindred Group also selected SG as its technology partner when it went live with Unibet NJ in August 2019. Wynn Resorts will do the same when it joins that crowded market later this year.

SG is also among the first companies to secure access to the Michigan online gambling market, having struck a combined sports and casino deal with FireKeepers Casino.

In Pennsylvania, its situation is a little bit different. There, it provides the platform for the state lottery and a sportsbook for Caesars but doesn’t have any online casino deals in place at the moment. Even Kindred went with Pala Interactive as its PA platform provider.

Last week, however, SG announced that it had installed its casino management system at Wind Creek Bethlehem, which will manage the property’s 3,399 slot machines and 178 tables. Just days later, it revealed it was partnering with UK bookmaker BetFred for sports.

Wind Creek, hasn’t yet announced a partner for online casino, but SG seems a likely candidate for the job.

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Just how big is DraftKings Casino?

Although DraftKings is going public later this year, for now, it’s still a privately owned company. That means we don’t have much insight into its finances as we do of its competitors.

We can make some educated guesses, though, and it looks like DraftKings Casino has been a big success.

In December, Resorts and its online partners made more than $11 million in combined online casino revenue — the second-largest group in New Jersey. That includes PokerStars Casino and Resorts’ own online site, plus DraftKings Casino.

Looking at Resorts’ revenue increase after DraftKings’ and PokerStars’ online casinos each went live, it seems like DraftKings Casino probably accounts for something like a 40% share — or around $4.5 million.

For comparison, Caesars, Harrah’s and 888 collectively made just under $4 million that month, while Tropicana and Virgin together made just a bit more.

In other words, DraftKings has done rather well for a company that only just entered the casino vertical. Considering it has a limited catalog of games in the first months, its success demonstrates both the power of its brand and its ability to cross-sell customers across verticals.

All in all, 2020 could be a big year for both DraftKings and Scientific Games. Both have much to gain from their new partnership.

- Alex is a journalist from Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada. Now site runner for Online Poker Report, he has been writing about poker and the online gambling industry in various capacities since 2014.
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