If you’re a poker player living in Nevada or Delaware, your options for playing online are shrinking. No, don’t worry: the newly regulated sites licensed by those states aren’t going anywhere. But if you’re one of the many people who have considered playing on an overseas site, another major player is pulling out of those markets.
Bovada, the largest US-facing online poker site in the world, is no longer taking new registrations from players in Nevada and Delaware, two states that offer their own regulated poker sites in their respective states. While the move wasn’t expected, it’s hardly a shock, either; several other sites have similarly retreated from states with regulated markets, and Bovada had already stopped accepting new players from New Jersey, New York and Maryland in recent months.
It’s hard to say exactly what prompted the move, though it appears as though many overseas sites are wary of continuing on in states that have chosen to regulate and oversee online gambling. This could potentially be due to the regulation coming with strengthened prohibitions on operating unlicensed sites, or perhaps simply an attempt to show that they are respecting the decisions of those states in an attempt to avoid being targeted by the federal government.
A Growing Trend
But regardless of the reason, this is just the latest decision in a trend of poker rooms leaving such states. The Merge Gaming Network left all three regulated jurisdictions earlier this year, as did the Equity Poker Network and the Winning Poker Network. In these cases, all play from these states was shut down, and residents in those areas were required to close their accounts and cash out any balance they held.
Bovada did not go quite that far. While new players can’t join the site from those states, existing accounts are still available for play. However, even those players can’t make new deposits, which means that for many, it’s only a matter of time before they lose or withdraw their remaining funds and can no longer play there.
Bovada Dominates US Market
Bovada is a part of the Bodog Network, which ranks 7th in worldwide online poker traffic according to PokerScout. Bodog-affiliated sites are said to host an average of 1,350 cash game players at any time, though it is unclear how many of these reside in the United States.
The next closest US-facing network is Merge, with an average of 425 cash game players, while the largest regulated sites in the United States are the World Series of Poker site in Nevada and the PartyPoker/Borgata site in New Jersey, each of which averages around 140 players at any given time.
The pullback out of regulated markets comes at a time when officials in these states are hoping to distinguish licensed products from unregulated competitors. In New Jersey, the Division of Gaming Enforcement sent a letter to several affiliates last month asking them not to promote unregulated sites alongside those operated by Atlantic City casinos. Officials said that they feared the public would conflate the two, either assuming that all sites were operating illegally or that the unregulated sites were approved by the state.