Despite the rapid pace of legalization and launches of state-regulated sports betting markets across this great land, the vast majority of U.S. sports bettors and would-be sports bettors do not yet have access to legal online sportsbooks. As studies and common knowledge show, when presented with the option to not bet on sports, or wager through illegal offshore sportsbooks or local bookies, U.S. residents cast $150 billion dollars worth of votes annually for the latter option.
The availability of legal online/mobile sportsbooks to a growing but still small minority (about 15%) of the total U.S. population has created some sports betting envy and impatience within non-legal jurisdictions.
That is the backdrop for a recent thread on Reddit’s sportsbook forum, population 115k, where one user posed the question last week: Once sports betting is legalized in your state will you switch from Bovada to a legal online sportsbook, or stick with Bovada?
If you’re unaware, Bovada is one of the three biggest sportsbooks based offshore that illegally accepts wagers from millions of U.S.-based bettors. It’s been around a while and does a good job of penetrating mainstream U.S. sports media.
Pent up and unmet demand for legal sports betting
As the question indicates, the user and the 30-plus commenters have some experience with Bovada, and a desire, but not an apparent option, to bet elsewhere. Here’s a sampling of some of the responses:
“Legal book 100%. I’ve had so many issues with Bovada. I can’t wait to watch them crumble once it’s legal across the nation.”
“My account in bovada got hacked and they bet my entire wallet on roulette for no reason.”
“[F]or me the biggest issues are buggy UI and how long it takes for them to process withdrawals.”
“[Their] bonuses in my particular experience while sucks is the best of all offshore books.”
“I stopped using bovada bc of the deposit fee increase in credit cards.”
“I’m in PA and already switched to FanDuel. I trust it more, it has nice promos, and there’s a lot of withdraw options.”
“I’m using FanDuel if Ohio ever passes it. I hate bovada”
Some defenses, complaints and future hurdles:
“Legal 100%, but Bovada is fine and not as bad people say.”
“Sticking to Bovada. Gov regulated sports book means taxes. I know how to use bitcoin and convert it to usd properly so a win is a win and a loss is a loss no matter what book I use.”
“Why not both? Being able to line shop would be nice.”
“In Oregon here…they just rolled out the Oregon lottery run Scoreboard Sportsbook out here. Not impressed at all so far….”
Finally, some still need an education:
“I’m in Illinois and we’ll be legal in January and I was thinking of DK and FD when I posted this.”
“TIL Bovada is illegal sports betting.”
Apparently unbeknownst to the post creator, who noted about Illinois in January, the state’s law puts DK and FD in a “penalty box,” barring them from potentially operating in the state until at least 18 months after the market opens (at a cost of $20 mm). Of course, the state has yet to get around to writing regulations, so that 18 months likely won’t toll after January.
The full thread of comments, which include a few remarks that there are better offshore sportsbook options than Bovada, highlight varying user experiences and several overarching themes. The main gripes are pervasive:
(1) There is tremendous pent up and unmet demand among U.S. residents for legal sports betting channels;
(2) People will choose a poor sportsbook over no sportsbook at all;
(3) There is an increasing awareness that legal sportsbooks have major advantages, chief among them, simple and safe payment processing, as well as promotions;
(4) If you offer a terrible product and restrict competition (particular to just one lottery offering, see Oregon commenter), people will notice, and keep using those offshore accounts. There’s a preview for the DC Lottery.
(5) Lots of people are aware that DFS operators FanDuel and DraftKings now operate sportsbooks in several jurisdictions, with each garnering numerous mentions as legal options. BetRivers, available in Pennsylvania, also gets a couple references.
The final point probably is not heartwarming for some of the other operators competing in multiple jurisdictions, such as William Hill, MGM, and Caesars, to name a few, as FD and DK, already widely available for DFS play, become synonymous with legal sportsbooks. The early dominance of that tandem is already well-documented, so consider the thread a small bit of additional market research.
No doubt, some/many legal sportsbooks have their (many) warts, and some people may well choose to keep their offshore accounts. Just spend an afternoon perusing #GamblingTwitter.
Elsewhere, there is a sense of cynicism and fatalism.
One user writes: “I’m in AZ, so I’ll be with bovada forever…”