Ohio Lawmakers Want Crackdown On Offshore Sportsbooks Like Bovada

Written By J.R. Duren on July 8, 2022
offshore sports betting

Bovada, MyBookie, BetOnline, and all those other offshore sports betting sites out there: You have been warned. Ahead of the Jan. 1 launch of legal Ohio sports betting, lawmakers are asking the feds to crack down on illegal offshore sportsbooks, who will be taking tax revenue out of Ohio.

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Letter To Department of Justice

Twenty-eight members of Congress from Ohio recently sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland demanding that the Department of Justice (DOJ) crack down on illegal offshore operators. In no uncertain terms, the lawmakers told sites like Bovada, “We are throwing you under the bus that we’re driving.”

“We write today to request that the Department of Justice make a concerted effort to fight illegal offshore sports books,” the lawmakers wrote. “These predatory operations expose our constituents to financial and cyber vulnerabilities; do not have protocols to address money laundering, sports integrity, or age restrictions; and undermine states’ efforts to capture much needed tax revenue through legal sports betting channels.”

The lawmakers distilled their argument into two main points: offshore operators are gaining interest from U.S. bettors, and offshore operators put bettors’ safety at risk.

As sports betting grows in US, so does interest in offshore betting

“Offshore” betting refers to gambling operators that are based outside of the U.S. but offer betting inside the U.S. Bovada is a good example of this. The company is based in Costa Rica but bettors in the United States can place wagers through the site.

This poses a problem because, as Ohio lawmakers argued, it’s hard for the average bettor to know that they’re betting on an offshore site. If you google “bet on Super Bowl” and click on a Bovada link, you may be unaware that the company you’re betting with isn’t operating according to U.S. laws. And, of course, there are plenty of gamblers who know they’re betting via offshore books and don’t care.

“Internet searches nationwide for offshore sportsbooks increased by almost 40 percent in 2021, outpacing searches for legal ones, with Bovada constituting half of all sportsbook brand searches,” the lawmakers wrote. “These dangerous operators are not relegated to the dark web, but instead are easily accessed through any computer or smart phone. This creates confusion for many consumers who may not even know they are wagering illegally.”
Lawmakers appeal to lack of protections for offshore betting
Because offshore books like Bovada are run outside of the U.S., they aren’t subject to the same gambling regulations as, say, DraftKings or FanDuel. As a result, the lawmakers argued bettors are at risk:

  • There are not time limits, budgets, or self-exclusion options
  • Federal and state financial regulations are non-existent
  • Personal information could be at risk
  • Payouts may not be guaranteed
  • There are no age restrictions
  • Sites don’t share unusual betting patterns with sports leagues

“We ask that the Justice Department work with the gaming industry, sports leagues, and other stakeholders to identify the worst actors, investigate and prosecute them, and educate Americans on the dangers associated with illegally wagering on sports,” the lawmakers wrote.

The letter closed by asking the DOJ to provide by September 6 an outline of tools it would use to confront offshore betting

Are offshore sportsbooks illegal?

In states where sports betting is legal, offshore operations are illegal because they don’t abide by the regulations set forth in those states.

“Each of these states have established rigorous licensing regimes to ensure game integrity and consumer safety,” the American Gaming Association noted in May. “Sportsbooks and bookies that offer sports betting outside of these licensing regimes – whether in person or online – are illegal.”

And, of course, offshore books are illegal in the 15 states where sports betting is illegal.

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J.R. Duren Avatar
Written by
J.R. Duren

J.R. Duren has written for a wide variety of publications, both online and print, including Snooth, the Villages Daily Sun, Bespoke Post, Our Amazing Norway, and Barcelona Metropolitan. He has thrice been recognized as a winner of the Florida Press Club Excellence in Journalism contest.

View all posts by J.R. Duren
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