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March Madness is about to get underway this week, and DraftKings is hoping that its casino can benefit from some cross-vertical marketing.
The annual NCAA basketball tournament is a big deal for sportsbooks, of course. In fact, March has generally been the biggest month of the year for sports betting in the US. Last year was a notable exception, as COVID-19 forced the tournament’s cancellation. That may well mean more activity than ever this year, especially since there are many more states now offering legal betting than when it last ran in 2019.
What of other verticals, though? Cross-selling users from other gambling products is critical for online casinos even at normal times. That goes double right now, and especially for companies like DraftKings, for whose customers sports products are the big draw.
Enter DraftKings March Mania Roulette.
Like other DraftKings-exclusive table games, it is mechanically identical to standard roulette. However, it features March Madness themed sounds and graphics, making it a fun diversion for basketball fans during commercial breaks or between games.
This. Is. March.
March Mania Roulette is here only for a limited time! pic.twitter.com/Y2pEs8BxVJ
— DraftKings Casino (@DKCasino) March 15, 2021
DraftKings has invested heavily in developing its own products in-house. Its competitors mostly rely on third-party suppliers, which is standard practice in the industry.
Differentiation and brand identity are the main goal in this strategy. With just a few exceptions, DraftKings’ custom products mostly feature sports themes. There are nearly two dozen such games, including baseball, basketball, football, hockey and soccer themes for blackjack.
The selection for roulette is somewhat smaller, but includes DraftKings Basketball Roulette. Unsurprisingly, the limited-time March Mania game is just a lightly tweaked version of this.
This highlights another advantage to in-house development, which is customization. The adjustments DraftKings made to create the March Mania variant can’t have taken too long. If they prove to be a cost-effective way to generate a little extra activity, we can probably expect to see more such limited-time variants.
More importantly, other online casinos don’t have the option to do anything similar. They’re subject to the whims of their supplier, and to the extent seasonal products are available, they’re rarely exclusive to one site.
Basketball Roulette takes place on a surface resembling a court, rather than the usual casino felt. An announcer calls the spins, throwing in basketball terms like “With no time left on the shot clock…” and “Nothing but net!”
There are various other visual embellishments. These include a basketball that can be knocked around the play area or tossed away, and a virtual camera that pans up to the net when the player hits their numbers. For March Mania, the specific visual details and audio clips differ, but the general concept is the same.
Both the original Basketball Roulette and March Mania Roulette allow the player to customize the play area. Unfortunately, DraftKings doesn’t have the right to use actual team names or logos, which reduces the games’ impact.
The original product does allow the player to choose a city, corresponding to the home town of one of the actual NBA teams. The city name and signature colors then appear on the court.
Unfortunately, while anyone is free to use the name of a city for any purpose, the same isn’t true for the names of colleges. Thus, even that level of customization is unavailable in March Mania. Even the name of the product itself is a variation on “March Madness,” as the tournament’s actual name is legally off limits.
The player does at least have the ability to cycle through various color schemes by clicking a jersey-shaped button. These correspond to the various teams in the tournament, just without other identifying features.
There’s considerable discomfort in the US surrounding betting and college sports. As such, we probably won’t see anything more official in terms of products with NCAA branding.
Professional sports are another story, and it’s probably only a matter of time before DraftKings rolls out its first product with team or league branding. Unibet already beat it to the punch on that front last October, launching Philadelphia Eagles themed blackjack and slots.