Nothing attracts a crowd in a casino like a hot craps table. The yelling and clapping and high-fiving — the fun is, to use a word that can still sometimes have a positive connotation, contagious.
But can you enjoy a game as social, as interactive, as communal as craps when you’re by yourself, tapping a button to roll digital dice, staring at a tiny screen?
The most honest answer: It depends. For some, the social element is the attraction. For others, the lure has to do with the numbers and the odds and the sweat over your own money, regardless of what anybody else at the table might be rooting for. And based on the early returns at DraftKings Casino since launching an online version of craps in New Jersey in May, it’s clear that, even if online craps isn’t for everyone, there is an audience for it.
“Craps has been a top-five game in New Jersey since we launched,” DraftKings Vice President of Gaming Jason March, who effectively oversees everything non-sports at DK, told NJ Online Gambling this week. “Blackjack will always be king. It is always the number-one game online — and land-based, for the most part. But craps is top five online for us, and that’s out of 500-plus games. And I would expect it to have the same adoption rate in other states as we roll it out.”
‘It’s a painful game to build’
DraftKings’ iCasino craps is available on desktop/laptop computers, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices. DK doesn’t offer a live dealer version of the game yet — theirs is fully digital, with outcomes determined by a random number generator — but there are plans to launch live dealer craps in partnership with Evolution Gaming in the near future.
For DraftKings and VP March, this is a project they’d been working on for a while, wanting to build their own version of the online game rather than using one created by an outside supplier.
“It was probably 15 months from start to launch, which is quite long for a game,” March said. “It’s a painful game to build. It was not an easy project. But I’m extremely proud of it.
“We really focused on the game play. In particular, when you play craps, if you place an across bet, you have multiple chips on each bet and you have to bet in multiple spots. That is very cumbersome online, because you have to place one chip, change your denom, go back and place a second chip on top, and then do that multiple times across. So we built sliders, so you can place a single touch bet and multiple across bets and whirl bets, so you aren’t having to place five or six chips in some cases.
“One of the things I wanted to do when I joined DraftKings was I wanted to start a game studio, because I felt that was going to be a real differentiating factor for us. With the market so new and immature in the U.S., nobody was focused on building games for the U.S. clients. And I felt there was an opportunity for us to build games better, put more focus on games that some of the major players weren’t featuring in the online space. I think there’s an opportunity here to own a few areas, and table games in particular was one of them, and craps was a passion project that I’ve championed for probably the better part of a decade to get built online.”
Several advantages online
It’s nearly impossible to simulate the social appeal of craps online. DraftKings has toyed around with the idea of building a multi-player version that allows for social interaction, and live dealer games allow text chat.
But for now, the focus is on marketing an online alternative that has its own advantages over live play despite the social shortcomings. Some examples:
- Smaller minimum bets: The DraftKings version has wager options ranging from $1 to $5,000, and on that lower end, the financial commitment is far more affordable than any B&M casino offering.
- Game speed options: The player has more control online, including the ability to pace the game how they like. The length of the animation of the roll is up to the user (regulatory requirements mandate at least a certain length of time between rolls, as is the case with spins/hands in every game type), and you can move as quickly or as slowly as you want in placing bets.
- Tutorial features: In what March calls “the most intimidating game in the casino” other than maybe peer-to-peer poker, more novice players can navigate the game and learn as they go.
- Table visibility: Online, there’s no squinting to see what was rolled or dipping and ducking to work around the obstructed views created by others at a crowded table.
For now, the game is only available in the Garden State, but once the other states that have launched legal iCasino gaming — Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Michigan (and, before long, Connecticut) — give approval to online craps, DK plans to hand customers in those states the digital dice as well.
The Diceman Cometh
March also revealed exclusively to NJ Online Gambling that a new version of the game featuring audio from a celebrity will be coming later this year.
For reasons that should be obvious, DK hired comedian/actor Andrew Dice Clay to voice the game.
“We had him in a studio in L.A. for a day and had a lot of fun with him,” March said. “And with the complexity of craps and the number of variables, we had quite a long script for him.”
Presumably, online craps players will not be subjected to any dirty nursery rhymes. But if “hickory dickory dock” isn’t appropriate in this setting, the Diceman does seem the perfect voice to hear yelling “yo” when you bet on 11.