DraftKings has gone old-school with its newest in-house exclusive casino game, Dollar Up! Though staying on the right side of intellectual property laws, the game’s design and name are distinctly reminiscent of IGT’s Top Dollar retail slots, which are a familiar—if dated—sight at US retail casinos.
Dollar Up!’s intro video is a first-person stroll through banks of old-fashioned stepper slots cabinets, leading the player to the machine. Everything about the game’s audio-visual presentation contributes to the sense of sitting at an aging mechanical-era slot machine rather than playing the game on your phone.
So far, Dollar Up! is only available at DraftKings Casino in Michigan, Connecticut and Ontario. It is still awaiting regulatory approval in other states.
A High-Fi Representation of a Low-Fi Experience
There’s something ironic about the fidelity of the illusion. The game-within-the-game is intentionally simplistic and out of fashion: the 7 and Bar symbols are as basic as they come, and the virtual machine’s sound effects are straight out of the 20th century. The betting interface is, if anything, more bare-bones than the real machines Dollar Up! emulates.
And yet, DraftKings is leveraging modern technology and considerable development effort to depict this game as realistically as possible. There is more detail in the scratches and scuffs on the cabinet’s silvered surface than in the game’s symbols. The mechanical “chunk” sound and jiggle of each reel as it locks into place really gives the sense of an old workhorse that’s been spinning those reels for decades.
The slot’s mechanics resemble an IGT product, but with the implementation, DraftKings appears to be beating Everi at its own game. Everi carved out its retail niche by focusing on old-school mechanical reel games like Black Diamond and Double Ruby. Its online success has hinged on delivering faithful adaptations of those products.
Yet DraftKings has gone beyond adaptation and into the realm of simulating the ambiance of a retail slot machine down to the reflected light and background noise of surrounding machines. All that’s missing, mercifully, is the smell of cigarette smoke.
It’s an interesting experiment without much precedent in the real money online casino space. Perhaps the closest parallel is what Flutter is doing with Vegas Infinite, a virtual reality play-money casino it built on the back of PokerStars VR. But even there, the in-person experience Flutter is trying to recreate is that of an upscale, modern casino, while Dollar Up! has a decidedly off-Strip vibe.
Dollar Up! Gameplay
If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, check out Bonus’s guide to stepper slots. In a nutshell, these are a form of mechanical reel slot where the “steps” at which the reels can stop are half the size of the symbols or the paylines. So, there are relatively few symbols, making it seem easy to hit a winning combination, but the hard part is having them all line up correctly.
In the case of Dollar Up!, almost all the symbols are Bars, but there are one-Bar, two-Bar and three-Bar versions. Getting three mismatched Bars pays out a small prize while getting three identical ones is better. Three 7s is better still, but much harder since there’s only one such symbol.
Aside from that, there are Wilds that double the paylines they fall on, as well as acting as scatter symbols with a cash prize. Finally, there’s the Bonus symbol. There’s only one of these on the third reel, but landing it immediately triggers the bonus game.
Like the base game, the bonus round mimics the limitations of the technology that existed before the video slots era. It depicts a plastic screen with printed dollar bill symbols corresponding to the possible prizes. These are given as multiples of the per-line bet (one-fifth of the per-spin bet since there are five lines). There are also x2, x3, and x4 multiplier symbols.
One or more of those symbols will light up, with their total representing an offer to the player. The player can accept the prize or ask for a new offer up to three times. If the player rejects the first three offers, they will automatically receive the fourth amount.