If you live in the United States and enjoy a good bet every now and then, chances are that you know all too well how hard it can be to find a decent sports betting or online casino site that lets you in on the action. This is not entirely the fault of the betting sites themselves, though. In fact, the majority of the blame can be placed on the US government. Thanks to a host of laws that I would call dated, zealous, and Puritanical, gambling of any sort is, for the most part, illegal.
Of course, in true fashion, there are plenty of exceptions to this rule. For instance, certain states have much more lax regulations than others. Nevada and New Jersey are two examples of this (for which we can thank the bustling casino-based economies of Las Vegas and Atlantic City). Other states, too, are slowly getting on board, such as Colorado and Pennsylvania. For the most part, though, the vast majority of US states does not take kindly to gambling, especially, it seems, online gambling.
Ever since the passage of The Unlawful Internet Gambling Act of 2006, online gaming in this country has taken a huge hit. This legislature essentially made it federally illegal for any company to operate an online gambling website on US soil. Plus, it makes it exceedingly difficult for any betting site and online casino to offer its services to US citizens.
Therefore, a great deal of websites that allowed US players prior to this federal law being put into effect have since changed their regulations and roughly 9 out of 10 betting sites today do not even let US players sign up … and in some cases, US players are flat out blocked from even viewing these sites.
It is the very nature of internet culture, however, to find a loophole and a workaround. A few companies have managed to do this to great success, bypass this sweeping legislature against online gambling. Just look at daily fantasy sports sites, such as Fan Duel and Draft Kings. These companies both have a thriving US presence and they do operate on US soil. How did they get around such a stringent federal law, you ask? Well, let’s just call it creative branding.
Daily fantasy operators have been able to serve US customers on US soil because they do not call it “betting.” Instead, they have made a compelling argument, saying that gambling relies heavily on chance, whereas fantasy sports are “skills-based” competitions in which people compete for money. Therefore – at least in the eyes of Draft Kings, Fan Duel, and the US government – fantasy sports and gambling are 2 very different things, even though that is very clearly not the case.
There is, however, an arguably simpler way for betting sites to get around US restrictions and offer more traditional gaming services. Why more companies do not take advantage of this is beyond me (fear, perhaps). One way to provide an online gambling platform to US citizens is to take after the infamous site Bovada and simply operate off of US soil. Because of how the Unlawful Internet Gambling Act is written, there is some wiggle room. The act clearly states that companies are prohibited from offering gambling services if they operate on US soil. That is a big “if.” One that Bovada has used to its advantage for years now. Then again, if we take a look at Bovada’s history, it becomes crystal clear that they are not a company that ever cared all that much about restrictions or rules anyway – as is evidenced by the general attitude and lifestyle of Bovada’s founder, playboy billionaire Calvin Ayre.
The year was 1992 when Calvin Ayre read a newspaper article about a Caribbean company offering a telephone bookmaking service. This newspaper article, it turned out, would change his life forever. It did not take him long to realize that gambling lent itself perfectly to the internet.
That is why he began teaching himself how to design networks by reading Cisco manuals. In a matter of months, Ayre converted his incubator into a company that provided software support to third-party betting sites. This software support company would eventually become the online gambling empire known as Bodog, which he headquartered in Costa Rica in 1996 and launched in 2000.
If the name of the site, Bodog strikes you as strange, this is by design. Canadian Business reported that this was one part of “an ambitious branding strategy Ayre envisioned from the start. Ayre came up with it while typing potential brand names into an Internet domain-registration search engine one night. He chose the appellation like a major corporation would pick the name of a new car or brand of soft drink: it had to have six letters or less, be easy to spell and remember, have some personality and be unlike any competitor’s moniker.”
Ayre, himself, would become a key component of the lifestyle brand that Bodog would eventually come to inhabit. This lifestyle was a modern spin on the high roller persona. Ayre became a celebrity of much interest throughout the decade of the 2000s, and he was featured on the cover of many prestigious magazines being given many illustrious titles, such as being called one of “the most eligible billionaire bachelors” by Star magazine in 2007.
Ayre was, for all intents and purposes, nothing short of the Hugh Heffner of the online gambling world. He became known for a lavish lifestyle of partying, women, and success. Ayre regularly hosted gigantic parties on his many yachts in Costa Rica, the footage from which was streamlined directly to the Bodog website. Thus, the “Bodog Girls” became a staple of the site, adding a sexy allure to the site’s brand by featuring women in bikinis. This was the Bodog lifestyle.
In 2006, however, the US passed its Unlawful Internet Gaming Act, resulting in a massive crackdown on the online gambling industry in the States. Bodog, of course, was not immune to this. It resulted in the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group withdrawing from their partnership with Bodog. The media, too, turned on Ayre, reporting allegations that Bodog had intentionally bypassed US gambling laws. Eventually, Bodog ceased all of its US operations.
After giving it some time, though, Bodog came back to the US … this time having rebranded as Bovada. Since Bovada is not operating in the US and is, technically, not the same entity as Bodog, the site has managed to rise from the ashes and continue operating in the US, with the Morris Mohawk Gaming Group back on board. As far as betting sites and online casinos for US players are concerned, there may be no more accessible option than Bovada.
But is the site worth your time and money? Well, let’s dive in and see for ourselves, shall we?
Bovada offers some of the cleanest, most intuitive, and stylish site design that I have seen in recent memory. From the moment you land on Bovada’s home page, it will draw you in. With a more sparse and minimalistic approach than many betting and online casino sites, Bovada is a breath of fresh air. It is neat, tidy, sleek, and modern. If ever there was a betting site that looked purely professional and legitimate, Bovada is it.
In more good news, the site is every bit as functionally satisfying as it is aesthetically pleasing. It’s rare to find a site that has both in spades … but, then again, Bovada is not your typical sportsbook and online casino site. Speaking of the sportsbook, I love how intuitive it is to navigate. You have everything exactly where you want it. A large menu of icons for quick access to the site’s most popular sports up top, a full list of sports available spanning the left-hand side of the page, live betting odds and upcoming games listed in the center, and a permanently embedded bet slip immediately to your right, making for easy tracking of your bets.
It may not seem like much, but one component of the design that I love is the fact that the live odds and upcoming games sections in the middle of the page are collapsible. It is rare that you find a site that is A.) customizable, and B.) not overly cluttered with too much game data, highlights, and bets. Sportsbooks have a tendency of cramming too much information into one area, making it feel cluttered. Bovada, however, puts you in control of your sportsbook, allowing you to nix excess content as you see fit.
Content and Features
Continuing on with Bovada’s excellent sportsbook, it offers a competitive number of sports and markets, too. With 26+ sports to choose from (and plenty of betting types and markets therein), you would be hard pressed to run out of action on Bovada. I also always appreciate when a site offers more traditional sports alongside novelty markets, such as politics and eSports – Bovada has a little bit of everything.
Whether you like to play futures or you prefer in-play live bets, Bovada has got you covered. The live betting section of the site is extremely intuitive, and lines appear to be updated at breakneck speeds. Nobody needs a ton of unnecessary steps getting in the way of their live bets, and Bovada does a great job of streamlining the experience with their live betting feature. Quick Bet enables players to place live bets with a single click. Plus, on the side of the screen, Bovada even lets you play casino games while you place sports bets – never a dull moment here.
Bovada, of course, also offers an online casino, a live casino, and horserace betting. Although these platforms are also great, they certainly seem to be a bit overshadowed by the amount of effort the site puts into its sportsbook. They are adequate, though, nonetheless. Enjoy 200+ slots, blackjack, table games, video poker, and specialty games. Plus, there are plenty of live poker and blackjack games for you to go head to head with real dealers, too.
Mobile and Desktop Experience
The good news: Bovada offers several apps.
The bad news: none of those apps allow you to place bets or play casino games.
The apps that are available from Bovada, however, include a bet tracker, sports wallet, casino tracker, and sports news application. These are all useful tools, no doubt, but I am disappointed to see that Bovada does not offer an app on which you can place new bets or play casino games. However, with these apps in your arsenal, you are sure to be able to become as strategic a player as can be.
There is some more good news … the Bovada mobile site is perfectly optimized for mobile devices, offering a flawlessly intuitive interface that makes online betting and gaming as easy and convenient as it should be.
Suggestions that I have for Bovada
Well, naturally, I would prefer there to be an app on which I could actually place bets. But I’m okay with the mobile site being as good as it is. The other major buzzkill with this site, though, is its relatively high credit card withdrawal fees. You’re looking at 4.9% fees. That is wild. If you use BitCoin, on the other hand, there are zero fees.