Regulated online gambling is something that most poker players in the United States welcome, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a few downsides to it, at least in the short-term. While having the state license sites makes it easier and safer to play, it can also force popular unregulated sites out of the market if they don’t want to violate those regulations.
That’s the dilemma that has been facing Bovada, one of the largest US-facing poker and gambling sites still operating in most of America. Reportedly, individuals in Nevada and Delaware are no longer able to make new accounts at the site, likely due to wanting to comply with the regulated markets in those states.
For now, at least, players who already have Bovada accounts are still allowed to play games, even if they live in those states. But those players are unable to make new deposits, which suggests that most will eventually be prevented from playing once they cash out or exhaust their current balances.
This is not the first time that Bovada has made the decision to block new registrations from certain states. Earlier, both New York and Maryland players were blocked from opening accounts, and just last month, Bovada made the same decision in New Jersey, another state that has a regulated online gambling market.
For companies like Bovada that want to access the American public but also want to avoid attracting the wrath of the US federal and state governments, picking and choosing which states to offer their services to often comes down to the legal advice they are given.
For instance, while PokerStars continued to offer Internet poker throughout the United States after the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed, they did eventually block players from the state of Washington after that state’s Supreme Court upheld a prohibition on online gambling.
Today, of course, PokerStars is out of the USA online poker game entirely (at least for now – a recent buyout by Amaya Gaming could change all that by next year). But there are a number of smaller operators still allowing players from most states to try their luck. In recent months, some of them have come to the same decision that Bovada made this week regarding their presence in regulated states.
Merge Gaming, Winning Poker Network, and the Equity Poker Network similarly stopped accepting customers from New Jersey, Nevada and Delaware earlier this year. However, those companies also immediately stopped allowing individuals from those states to play on their sites, instead forcing them to withdraw their funds immediately.
These decisions have been made as officials in some regulated states have started to pressure unlicensed sites into leaving their markets. In one case, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement even sent letters to affiliates asking them to remove links to unauthorized sites. The letter pointed out that having licensed and unlicensed sites promoted next to each other could either confuse customers into thinking all sites were authorized by the state, or even worse, that all of the sites were operating outside of the law.
Despite this, unregulated sites have continued to be a thorn in the side of states that are trying to regulate online poker. In many cases, players have found at that unlicensed sites are actually easier to play on, due to the fact that there is less identity and location verification required to open an account.
The Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) is a piece of legislation designed to prohibit gambling businesses and financial institutions from accepting payments for Internet casino games in the United States. Passed in 2006 as an amendment to the Port Security Improvement Act, UIGEA led many online gambling companies to stop offering real money play in the United States. UIGEA did not make it a crime for individuals to participate in online gambling games, and included exemptions for fantasy sports and some intrastate gaming activities.