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Spring is the time for dormant life to emerge. It’s appropriate, then, that Boyd Gaming and FanDuel have chosen April as their moment to attempt to make a withered old brand bloom anew.
The two companies have announced that they will work together to launch a Stardust Online Casino in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
The Stardust Casino brand once belonged to an “old Vegas” style casino on the Las Vegas Strip. Boyd owned the property the last two decades of its life. It was demolished in 2007, and the brand was inactive for the next 13 years.
In the course of its market research, however, Boyd discovered that the brand still enjoyed recognition and held some residual value. To capitalize on that, it launched a social play money casino under that name last summer.
At the time, the company’s chief information officer Blake Rampmeier hinted to the Las Vegas Sun that there were also “further plans for the brand” in the online space.
“For nearly 50 years, the Stardust was one of the most famous casinos on the Las Vegas Strip,” said Boyd CEO Keith Smith. “And while the resort has been gone for more than a decade, the Stardust brand is still as well-known and popular as ever. We are excited to work with our partners at FanDuel to launch our first real-money online casinos and are confident this legendary brand will give us a significant advantage in connecting with players looking for a distinctive online gaming experience.”
More brands are probably the last thing the New Jersey online casino market needs, as it’s already on course to have close to 30 by the end of the year. Pennsylvania is starting to grow crowded too, despite what was a slow start in 2019.
In terms of the product itself, it doesn’t sound like Stardust will be anything new. The press release states that it will feature a large selection of high-quality games, including live dealer products. However, the list of game types only covers the same bases as most existing online casinos.
That may be beside the point, however. Ultimately, it’s the Stardust name itself that should bring value to the partnership. The importance of that can’t be understated, precisely because so many casino products are objectively similar. When multiple competing products look much the same on paper, customers tend to gravitate towards the brand they know.
FanDuel has a large following, but primarily as a daily fantasy and sports betting company. Its casino product is secondary to that, though it has enjoyed a lot of success despite that.
Boyd, meanwhile, is not a name many players would recognize. The company owns numerous brick and mortar casinos around the country. Unfortunately, they all operate under different names. That presents a dilemma for Boyd when it comes to building a national iGaming brand.
Though the Stardust Casino itself is long gone, its memory lingers.
It was one of the first casinos to be built along the section of Las Vegas Boulevard that would eventually become the Strip. Stardust’s doors opened in 1958, almost a decade before Caesars Palace.
The Boyd family bought it in 1985 and held on to it until 2006, when it was time to shutter the old operation. Demolition began the following year, with the initial plan to replace it with a new resort called Echelon Place.
That project fell through in 2008 because of the global recession. However, the site and preliminary construction were purchased by Genting Group, who have turned it into what will be Resorts World Las Vegas, which should open soon.
Stardust featured prominently in the 1995 film Casino, which may do a bit to preserve the brand’s value. It’s also a simple and catchy name, in an era when all such low-hanging fruit has been picked, and newcomers often have to choose less obvious monikers.
Just as important as the brand is the Stardust Casino social app. This rolled out nationwide in July last year. Play money apps can be big money makers in their own right. In the hands of real money gaming companies, however, they serve an additional purpose as customer acquisition tools.
Aside from scattered branding, Boyd’s main problem in the iGaming space is that its casinos are in the wrong places. It has over two dozen properties in the US. However, only one – Valley Forge – is in a state that currently allows online casinos.
The nice thing about play money gambling products is that they’re legal everywhere, though they’ve been coming under fire in Washington State. In a crowded industry, one of the best ways to get ahead is to build a customer database before the real money product becomes legal.
FanDuel and its longtime competitor DraftKings accomplished this with their daily fantasy sports products. Some other company’s, like Bally’s, are attempting to emulate that strategy by acquiring DFS brands. Going the social casino route is another, less sports-oriented avenue to the same destination. It also allows Boyd to do so without stepping on its partner’s toes.
The new Stardust Online Casino won’t exist in a vacuum. Rather, it will intersect heavily with the social casino product, Boyd’s retail business, and the FanDuel Casino and Sportsbook products.
In New Jersey, it won’t even launch as a new casino per se. Rather, it will replace the existing Betfair Casino. Betfair is a major international sports betting exchange, owned by FanDuel’s parent company Flutter. However, it’s a minor brand in the US.
Betfair’s NJ casino is mostly relevant because FanDuel, being partnered with a racetrack, was initially unable to launch its own casino product there. Betfair, being partnered with Golden Nugget, was able to do so, and its casino product was then integrated into FanDuel’s sportsbook app. That integration will continue under the Stardust brand, just with a new look and a better selection of games.
Stardust will launch as an entirely new product in the Pennsylvania online casino market. Naturally, its partner will be Boyd’s own Valley Forge Casino.
There too, however, it will operate in close association with FanDuel’s products. Existing FanDuel users will be able to use their login to play on Stardust as well, if they choose.
The main advantage for users of Stardust over FanDuel’s casino will be that it implements Boyd’s B Connected loyalty program. It shares this with both Boyd’s retail casinos, and the play money social app. Users can accumulate points across all three types of product, which they can then redeem for food, hotel stays, retail purchases or Fast Play credit at Boyd properties in the US and abroad.