Much has been made about the ongoing trend of the legalization of sports betting. This month, Connecticut was the latest of the states to join in on the trend, with online and in person sports betting options becoming legal.
However, less talked about, and equally transformative in the long run, is iGaming. As part of the updated agreement with the two Connecticut tribes with casinos, not only was sports betting agreed to, but so was iGaming.
Both tribal gaming companies chose a veteran gaming partner to work with; Foxwoods partnered with Draft Kings and Mohegan Sun partnered with Fan Duel. Both companies have sports betting and iGaming operations, so it worked out well to have partners that can handle everything.
You’re able to play the services if you’re in Connecticut geographically, even if you’re not a CT resident. This is similar to New Jersey online casinos, which I have been able to try when in New Jersey, even though I’m not a resident.
I tried out both services during their launch week, starting with when they opened to the public on October 19, 2021. Here’s my initial week thoughts.
The Games Available
One of the bigger surprises to me is that both offerings have nearly identical game line-ups. One of the things that tends to differentiate casinos, whether in person or online, is the games they choose to make available.
Both online casinos have less than 100 slots. The bulk of the games are recognizable, and somewhat older, titles from IGT and Everi. There’s some smaller game providers, like NetEnt, that have some games in the library. Draft Kings had some games specific to them as well. UPDATE 12/2/21: As of late November the first handful of games from Scientific Games have appeared, but they appear to be pacing them out over time.
This means, at least so far, no games from Aristocrat, Konami or Ainsworth – those are some pretty big providers with games people would recognize, and none are here. If you’re not a fan of IGT or Everi (or the specific Scientific Games options released so far), I can’t blame you for feeling a bit underwhelmed by the game choices.
For instance, there was only one game in the style of a link game, in this case Cash Eruption, An IGT game. This is because most of the link games are made by companies yet to be represented. My favorite game so far ended up being a NetEnt game called Finn and the Swirly Spin – it’s very quirky, different for a slot type game, and pretty engaging. It’s also a tough game, but with very lucrative bonuses when they come.
The IGT slots list their payback percentages, and I saw between 94 and 96 percent in the games I reviewed. That’s certainly better than the penny payback percentages reported by the physical casinos, so you may find games that are more player friendly than the physical casino floor. It makes sense, given the overhead is going to be lower.
Video Poker consisted of a Game King product, which offered various games in a single hand format; three multi-hand options (3, 5 and 10 hands) with game choice; and Ultimate X in the 3, 5 and 10 hand varieties and game choice.
These are the genuine IGT article, so that’s where having IGT as a core provider offers some benefit. I was pleased to see full pay Jacks or Better video poker even at smaller bet levels on the standard hands. Ultimate X was a step down from standard full pay (8-6 Jacks or Better), likely because the multipliers increase the payout back above 99%.
Here, too, the offerings are better than what you can find on the physical floor, especially under the $1 denomination. Mohegan Sun offers full pay machines at quarters, but full pay machines traditionally don’t offer comp dollars.
The rules for Blackjack looked good as well, with 3:2 blackjack and staying on all soft 17s. They also allowed low minimum bets for the table games.
Draft Kings offered Spanish 21 and more skins on its baseline Blackjack and Roulette tables, but otherwise I didn’t see too many other differences.
Bonus Offers (Including New Players)
The two companies have different approaches for new players, as well as bonuses as you play. So let’s evaluate each of them separately.
Draft Kings matches your first deposit up to $2,000, but you have to play through the entirety of it 10 times. In my case I did a $400 deposit, and got a $400 match, yielding $800 that had to be played through 10 times, or $8,000 in wagers. You also get $25 in free credit (their free play) for registering, and another $25 for making your first deposit. That only has to be played through 1x.
Given the average slot payback is 95%, presuming all things average, playing $8000 through would yield an average loss of $400, exactly what the bonus was. That wouldn’t be that exciting, but there was some other things going on.
During the first few days of the site being live, they had concurrently a promotion of playing $7,777 in slots yielding $777 in free credit. Since I had to do $8,000 anyway, that was an easy bonus to pick up, and as long as you’re opted in you can stack bonuses if the wagers you’re doing support multiple bonus options.
For instance, they also had a Diamond game promotion where the more coin-in you did on specific Diamond themed games, the more free credit you could win. So while working to clear my bonus deposit, I was also able to earn another $45 in free credit from that promotion.
One thing that’s great about Draft Kings is that if you play a “do x, get y” promotion, it pays out the free credit instantly, so I got my $777 and $45 while working to the $8,000 play through mark.
At one point I was up over $1,000, but decided to keep some money in and cashed out double what I started. Great start from a win perspective, but it also shows the potential if you get the right offers at the right time.
Draft Kings is also heavy on leaderboard promotions, where you earn points for play and if you rank, you get a prize. Those prizes have so far been paid out for me within 24 hours of the completion of a promotion, also pretty quick overall. You must remember to opt in to these promotions to be eligible.
They also had a launch week set of opportunities to get a few dollars of this or that, but the opt in button took days to start working for me, so I missed out on a couple (I think I lost out on $10; it doesn’t make it any less frustrating.)
Mohegan Sun Casino (Fan Duel/Bet Fair)
Mohegan Sun has opted for a loss rebate program. Based on your first 24 hours of play after making an initial wager, you will get a free play amount equal to your losses (up to $1,000) within 72 hours of the completion of that first 24 hour day.
The expected loss of such a promotion in terms of your own money is probably a bit higher, because you have to lose money to start, and then have to play through the free play (albeit just one time, which is good) on a negative expectation game. But it’s probably less risky from a volatility perspective than the Draft Kings setup because there’s less coin-in to do and you can use a lower volatility Video Poker option to play through the free play.
It took about a day after my 24 hour window expired for the free play to become available. So Mohegan Sun’s provider does seem a bit slower, although they are within the ranges they promise. If speed matters to you, you might find Draft Kings a bit more attractive.
They also run “bet x, get y” promotions, as well as progressive play promotions, at least by the first line-up of promotions. But they, too, can take up to 72 hours to reflect on your account after completion, unlike the instant gratification of Draft Kings. In practice it takes less than 24 hours, but most of Draft Kings promotions are instant, with the exception being the leaderboards, which can take up to a day (they usually arrive mid-afternoon).
Another disappointment of the launches is there is no tie to either physical casino in earning tier credits, comp dollars and so on. Many of the New Jersey casinos, such as Caesars, tie back to their physical properties, making it easier to build a tier status and have all gambling energies counted towards the final tally.
Instead, on the Mohegan Sun side I didn’t see any loyalty offerings whatsoever! That was a mild surprise and really makes me wonder what they hope to do to keep players engaged beyond the small bonuses offered on a daily basis for playing specific games or making deposits.
On the other hand, Draft Kings has put some thought into it. You earn crowns at a set rate depending on the game. Crowns can be redeemed for free play or DK Dollars (another form of betting currency). They don’t accrue fast, but you do get something for your play.
The number of crowns you earn will determine your status for the following month, and that includes daily log-in bonuses of free credits, crowns and more. Clearly Draft Kings has worked out some ways to keep players checking in.
UPDATE 11/2: For whatever reason the daily login promotion has ended; I received an email offering me a one-time offer for the entirety of November and a promise something “better” was replacing it soon. But that’s a bummer as it was one of the things separating them right now.
Finally, while it’s still quite early days, Draft Kings sent me the first offer of any sort, a free crowns deposit, which again can be converted into free play.
I have to say I was a bit underwhelmed overall. I was expecting a better diversity of games, given iGaming has been around awhile now, and I found myself slowly tiring of the game selection during the review. I liked the Video Poker offerings, although I found the use of keyboard shortcuts a bit hokey (it would stop working after a minute or two). The lack of loyalty program linking was a big disappointment.
But overall, Draft Kings for me had the edge in terms of the kickoff, with some overall consideration to loyalty and rewarding levels of play, vs. nothing on the Mohegan Sun/Fan Duel side. It’s early days, so I expect the situation will evolve with time, but given where things stand, I would recommend Draft Kings, the Foxwoods offering, as the best choice for now.