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Colorado Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon bobbles the ball as we look at reaction to Colorado and Michigan sending cease-and-desist letters to Bovada
Colorado Rockies third baseman Ryan McMahon bobbles the ball in the sixth inning against the Washington Nationals at Coors Field. Photo by: Isaiah J. Downing/USA TODAY Sports

Efforts to stop the actions of offshore sportsbook Bovada, the most popular unlicensed sports betting provider operating in America, seem to be working. In Michigan and Colorado, the Curacao-based, Harp Media-owned company announced that it has stopped accepting new customers in those two key U.S. markets. Residents of those states will need to check out our best sports betting sites operating within their borders.

The Michigan Gaming Control Board and the Colorado Department of Revenue have recently taken steps against Bovada through cease-and-desist letters to the offshore provider. Each threatened legal action for operating in their respective states without being licensed, regulated, and taxed, as has become mandatory since sports betting legalization in their jurisdictions. 

The MGCB gave Bovada 14 days to shutter operations in the state, and the offshore sportsbook apparently met that deadline.

The Bovada website’s FAQ section now reads, “Bovada remains open to United States residents, except for those living in Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Michigan, and Colorado. Should you reside in a restricted state and still retain an account balance, please contact Customer Service for more information or to arrange a cryptocurrency withdrawal."

Customers in the Michigan sports betting and Colorado sports betting scenes can withdraw funds via cryptocurrency.

The issues

Bovada has been operating on American soil as an unlicensed, unregulated sports betting provider for years while escaping the vetting process and regulatory requirements of legal operators.

For years, the New York sports betting and Nevada sports betting markets have had systems in place to make it so that Bovada and other offshore sports betting companies cannot operate in their jurisdictions.

 “The proliferation of online gaming platforms has led to increased scrutiny from regulatory bodies worldwide, and this action serves as a stern warning to overseas companies that flouting local regulations will not be tolerated. The MGCB remains steadfast in its commitment to upholding Michigan’s laws and regulations and will continue to actively monitor and enforce compliance within the state to ensure a fair and secure gaming environment for all.”
- - Michigan Gaming Control Board Executive Director Henry Williams, in a May 30 press release May 30 on Bovada's operation

Clamp-down gaining steam

The clampdown on unlicensed, unregulated, offshore sports betting providers is gaining serious steam. Connecticut sports betting and Maryland sports betting look like they are moving forward with similar efforts to prevent Bovada from cutting into the profits of licensed operators in their states and the ultimate tax revenue from them.

As American Gaming Association SVP of Government Relations Chris Cylke said in a statement, “Successful enforcement actions against Bovada by Michigan and Colorado are proof that states have tools to fight back against offshore operators and should serve as blueprints for other states to follow.”

That said, the company is still widely available in other American states besides the ones listed on Bovada's website.

Bigger picture

The American Gaming Association has been pursuing limitations on Bovada and other offshore companies for years, citing what the organization called a “vast illegal sports betting market” in a 2022 letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

In 2022, in that same letter, AGA President Bill Miller said, “These illegal sites [also] enjoy many competitive advantages that allow them to offer better odds and promotions and ignore any commitment to responsible gaming because they do not pay state and federal taxes or have comparable regulatory compliance costs and obligations."

He also recently commented that “Nationwide internet searches for offshore sportsbook brands increased 38% last year, faster than the search growth for legal U.S. operators, and searches for offshore brands represented a majority of all sportsbook searches. Bovada alone accounts for 50% of all searches.” 

The AGA, in conjunction with various states, seems to be working. Not only is Bovada being banned in jurisdictions across the country, but its name is making headlines weekly for all of the wrong reasons.