In a surprising move this morning, Best Partners, the affiliate program of brands such as Bovada, slots.lv and Cafe Casino, communicated to residents of the state of New York that it can start accepting their wagers again, after having remained closed for a number of years. Communication sent out to players specifies that popular payment methods such credit cards Visa and Mastercard will be accepted for the re-opening.
Is this the first step to a new regulated market in the US? Is bovada acting according to the US law or are the brands stepping into something that this is virtually unknown territory? The US have proved in the past they are not tolerant to online casinos that operate against the letter of the law. However, the fact that credit card providers such as Visa and Mastercard process payments for these two brands, indicate that things are serious. No major payment providers would risk enforcement if the situation was completely illegal.
The beginning of something big with online gambling in the state of New York?
No one knows yet. The market (where the value of annual GGR for gaming operators is expected to reach 1bn USD from year 1 already) is a massive riddle for casino analysts from all over the world. Its the second biggest state/market in US only behind California (at least in analysts reviews). Casino, sports betting and poker online were banned officially with UIGEA in 2006 but some operators, among them also bovada and slots.lv, carried on with their operation in New York way after that date. It was not until Black Friday of 2011 when the Department of Justice enforced the ban horizontally, confiscating earnings and player funds of those companies. Bovada also saw their offices in Costa Rica raided by the police and the feds during a fierce law enforcement action that should have happened already from 2006.
Now however, 7 years later, Bovada is decided to return to the market stronger than ever. The company as well as the company’s administration have “grown up” over the years that followed Black Friday. In theory a step as bold as moving in such an important market might be a sign that the market is opening indeed. Lets not forget that the owner of the bovada group, Calvin Ayre, has recently settled with the DoJ on a massive (and historical) settlement for online gaming in the States. Part of the settlement was also the re-acquisition of the bodog.com domain in exchange of 100.000 USD, which now remains to be seen if this will be the main domain and brand used for its US operation.
All these will be confirmed soon as the battle for regulation of online casino and poker on a federal level starts only now.