What Prompted Bovada to Return to New York?

BovadaLast week, former New York-based customers of Bovada received an email announcing We´re Back in the Empire State a year after withdrawing its service.

To anybody looking in from the outside, the relationship between Bovada and New York is much like the plot of a rom-com movie. Boy meets girl, boy messes girl about, it looks like the relationship is over, but something happens and the two kiss and make-up, before living happily ever after – at least until the sequel. That´s similar to how Bovada (the boy) has treated New Yorkers (the girl) in recent years.

Since Bovada was launched in 2011, the site has stopped accepting new registrations from New York-based customers (2012), stopped accepting deposits from New Yorkers (2014), stopped offering a poker service (2016), and withdrawn its sports betting and horserace betting service from New York (2017).

So, what event triggered the decision to kiss and make up? And will there be a happy ending?

Bovada has the Ineptitude of the State to Thank

Although there has been no official reason given for Bovada´s return to New York, the decision was likely triggered by the ruling of the New York Supreme Court in the case of White, West, Wellins, and Remington vs. Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Gambling Commission – the case brought against the state relating to the regulation of Daily Fantasy Sports.

The New York Supreme Court found the state had no authority to reclassify Daily Fantasy Sports as a game of skill in order to circumnavigate the constitution and regulate an illegal gambling activity, but upheld the portion of the law which removed criminal penalties against DFS firms operating in the Empire State. Therefore, until such time as the state appeals the decision:

  • Daily Fantasy Sports is illegal in New York.
  • Daily Fantasy Sports is not regulated in New York (*).
  • DFS firms can operate without criminal penalties.

(*) Since the ruling last month, the New York State Gambling Commission has removed any reference to DFS from its website. Even though the state is expected to appeal, it could take up to three years for the appeal to be heard – which will presumably delay the regulation of online poker, as legislators are attempting to use the same “game of skill” argument to circumnavigate the constitution.

Bovada´s Thought Process: If They Can Do It, Why Not Us?

In my opinion, the ruling of the New York Supreme Court likely started a thought process along the lines of “there are twelve DFS firms operating illegally in New York immune from prosecution. If they can do it, why not us?” I am not stating this is definitely the trigger for Bovada´s return to New York, but it seems to make sense – especially when it comes to payment processing.

Although Bovada encourages customers to deposit and withdraw using Bitcoin, there are still many visitors to the site that want to use other deposit options. From a payment processor´s point of view, it can´t justifiably deny deposit requests made by customers of Bovada when it is processing deposit requests made by customers of unregulated DFS firms that are operating illegally.

So, Will There be a Happy Ending for Bovada and New York?

When Bovada stopped offering a poker service in 2016, any existing New York-based players were migrated onto the Ignition Poker platform where they continued to play on the same Network. Furthermore, Ignition Poker continued to accept new registrations and deposits from New York players, so I don´t expect a bump in traffic on the PaiWangLuo (PWL) network due to Bovada now accepting new registrations.

It is possible there may be a small shift in player numbers from Ignition Poker to Bovada Poker due to the provision of a sportsbook at Bovada.lv and because there might be some players at Ignition Poker who are eligible to take advantage of an extra poker bonus at Bovada. This is unlikely to affect the total number of players on the PWL Network, although there may be some New Yorkers attracted to Bovada´s mobile sportsbook from other offshore sites who ultimately decide to try out the poker platform.

Returning to the analogy of a movie plot, I would suggest a “satisfactory ending” rather than a “happy ending”. It´s unlikely the girl (New Yorkers) will totally reject the boy´s (Bovada´s) advances, as an increase in service providers usually results in more competition and better promotions. However, in the boy´s absence, other opportunities have been available, and it may be the case the girl now prefers another suitor and doesn´t have the inclination to kiss and make up. We shall see.

Jacqueline Packett
Jacqueline Packett