Massachusetts May Follow Other States In Targeting Bovada's U.S. Operations

June 17, 2024
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Massachusetts regulators are considering joining at least two other states in ordering offshore online betting platform Bovada to exit the state’s gaming market.
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Massachusetts regulators are considering joining at least two other states in ordering offshore online betting platform Bovada to exit the state’s gaming market.

During a Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) agenda setting meeting last week, commissioner Nakisha Skinner mentioned the issue of illegal offshore websites as a topic for the commission to discuss at a future meeting. 

“We may want to send a cease-and-desist letter of our own,” Skinner said. 

Skinner, who attended the commission meeting from the North America Gaming Regulators Association (NAGRA) meeting in Charleston, South Carolina, along with interim chair Jordan Maynard, said there had been a lot of discussion at the conference about the illegal gaming market.

“I wonder just with the discussion around the cease-and-desist letter that Michigan has sort of spearheaded and now Connecticut has signed on … if it is workable among the commission, whether there are any steps we might want to take along those lines,” she said.

Skinner also updated her colleagues about some jurisdictions that are holding licensed suppliers accountable if they are doing business with the illegal market.

“I would like us to mark it up,” Skinner said. “Obviously, invite the attorney general’s office to the discussion. But I do think it is worth putting under review.”

Maynard agreed, saying he imagined there was work already going on. He said that MGC general counsel Todd Grossman would update the commission “as to where we are and what we are doing.”

Prominent offshore sportsbook and casino Bovada operates in most U.S. states but is currently unavailable to residents of Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Delaware, which were all either early adopters of regulated internet gaming or have been the location of federal prosecutions against offshore gambling.

If Massachusetts were to join with Connecticut and Michigan in targeting Bovada, it would represent a significant escalation by states with legal gaming markets to crack down on unregulated, offshore sites targeting their residents.

Brendan Bussmann, managing partner with the Las Vegas-based advisory firm B Global, said regulators are approaching the issue from a “need to protect our citizens from being able to do this”.

“We want to protect the people, who have actually gone through sustainability and done the things to do these things and do it in a legal market and get rid of the guys who are not doing it right,” Bussmann said during a June 12 webinar hosted by the Indian Gaming Association (IGA).

Regulators in Connecticut confirmed that they will also move to order Bovada to stop doing business in the state following the cease-and-desist action taken by the Michigan Gaming Control Board (MGCB) more than two weeks ago.

But Steve Ruddock, a gaming industry analyst and consultant who joined Bussmann for the IGA webinar, said that without also cracking down on Bovada's suppliers, any move by the operator to withdraw “will just create a vacuum that others will quickly fill”.

“That’s the only way you stop this,” Ruddock said. “You have to cut off the spigot to all the different channels that they are using to make those bets viable from the U.S. You can shut down Bovada tomorrow and they just will go to a new domain.” 

Kurt Steinkamp, chief of staff with the MGCB, told Vixio GamblingCompliance in a recent interview that companies facilitating Bovada's operations know the position of Michigan regulations on the issue, “and if those companies continue to engage in a business relationship with Bovada in the event that Bovada does not comply with the cease-and-desist letter, that also puts those businesses at risk.”

“They risk not being able to operate in a very large gaming market in Michigan,” Steinkamp added.

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