Bovada Casino Review:
Bovada might be a relatively new name to the world of online gambling, but the company behind it certainly isn't. For 16 years the operators of this site ran the highly-respected Bodog casino and sportsbook until early 2012 when US State Regulators forced a close down of the site due to breach of US anti-gambling legislation. The people behind Bodog didn't stay down for long though with Bovada now filling the Bodog-shaped hole and more determined than ever to offer US-based players a top-class gaming experience.
In fact, Bovada must be one of the few casinos that is 100% focussed on attracting players from the US – try to sign up from Europe, for example, and you'll be forbidden from doing so. Of course, this is a risky strategy for Bovada but it also offers reassurance to US players since they remain the sole focus for this casino group rather than being a 'side line' audience. Of course, with states such as Nevada and New Jersey seriously looking in to allowing operation and licensing of online casinos, sites like Bovada might by playing the game very cleverly indeed since they'll be well placed in the market if the green light is given.
The Bovada website itself offers a range of gambling opportunities including sportsbook betting and poker but it was the casino side of things I was most interested in trying so headed straight for that section. Bovada is powered by the latest-version software from providers Real Time Gaming and with the download weighing in at just over 7mb, any sort of broadband connection should easily be able to download the software within just a few minutes. Of course, some people don't like having casino software cluttering their computer so Bovada also offers a no-download Flash version of the casino, although for the best range of games and overall experience here at Online-Casinos.com we always recommend the download version.
Site sign-up actually happens via browser window rather than in the software itself so any players trying to register after download are redirected back to the main website. This makes sense though since Bovada operates a 'single sign-on' account system meaning only one account is needed to access the sportsbook, poker site or casino software. Sign up is relatively straight forward with standard form capture used to record a new player's details, although as stated earlier anyone from outside of the United States will get a 'no can do' message if they try and join this site.
Unfortunately, given the US stance on gambling the deposit options available at Bovada are severely restricted. Visa card deposits are accepted (including virtual or pre-paid cards which are usually OK for use at gambling sites) as well as a couple of Money Transfer methods (effectively consumer-focussed transfer services such as Western Union). Generally though, the selection of deposit options isn't great, although US players must by now be used to the 'jumping through hoops' that sometimes goes hand-in hand with enjoying this perfectly legitimate pastime. The only thing that isn't great is a 4.9% surcharge added to all Visa deposits meaning for every $100 deposited, an additional charge of $4.90 will be made. On the flip side, Bovada do offer to cover all transaction fees associated with money transfers of over $300 so players should think carefully about how best to minimise costs associated with funding their accounts.
Going some way to making up for these costs are the healthy deposit bonuses available to new players. A 100% match bonus can be claimed for first-time depositors worth up to $500 for slot play or $200 on table games. These come with wagering requirements of 25x(bonus+deposit) for the slot coupon and 40x(bonus+deposit) for the table games one. Whilst certainly not a way to make easy money, these bonuses certainly extend play time which is what counts for most players. Furthermore, some really attractive on-going bonuses are also available such as 'Blackjack Sunday' which rewards players with $21 completely free on hitting a Blackjack hand at the table. 'Happy Hour Thursday' and 'Super Sunday' are amongst other weekly promos that are well worth taking advantage off. Certainly being tight with bonus money isn't a trait of this casino.
Naturally, it's not bonuses that really keep a player coming back but the selection of games themselves and thankfully Bovada does rather well in this area. The clean-looking lobby provides access to over 100 hundred games spanning table games to video poker to the ever-popular slot machines. Being backed by RTG also means the choice of games is ever expanding as new games are created and released.
I've always been fascinated by table games and Blackjack has always been a favourite of mine, as indeed it is for many casino-going players. Bovada offers a good selection of games in this area including a great odds Single Deck game. However, the better the game the more players have to bet at this casino – the 'standard' game allows bets ranging from just $1 all the way up to $500 (with two spots playable per game). The Single Deck game, however, requires a minimum $25 bet and is capped at $300. Incidentally, the 'in the middle' Double Deck game has a range of $10 - $250. High-rolling players will love this selection although those who like betting the smaller amounts will no doubt be slightly annoyed that they cannot have access to the best-paying games.
Thankfully the rest of the casino doesn't impose betting restrictions and many of the games are playable for mere dollars – indeed the slot games regularly offer minimum bet amounts of just a penny. What's more, these slot games often have random jackpots attached to them which climb progressively until they are hit – imagine if you landed one of those on a penny bet!
Following my table play (as well as Blackjack, Bovada offers a range of table games including Roulette, Tri-card Poker, Craps, Stud Poker and more) I next headed over to the slot section. With over $6m in progressive jackpots across the various games up for grabs I couldn't resist giving the reels a whirl. All the classic RTG games can be found at Bovada as well as a good selection of the more modern Video Slots. These contain near-video like animations and true 3D imagery. Coupled with smooth animation and great sound effects these games really do offer a great gaming experience.
I played the 'It Came from Venus' game and was lucky enough to hit the bonus round early on. Whilst this was a pretty standard pick-me type bonus, the presentation was really good. A video-type animation played completely in-keeping with the theme of the game and the humorous sound effects really made winning money even more enjoyable. It's certainly true that the general game presentation from this casino is spot on. The games all have a good look and feel and whilst some of the older games are now looking slightly dated, the new ones more than make up for it. What's more, many features of the casino can be customised including game speed.
After having a good play on many of the slot games I game away without anything really exciting to report – no massive losses but certainly no massive wins. That said, the games paid off pretty regularly which is important for extended gaming sessions.
Unfortunately my luck really went downhill with my Video Poker game play, mainly because I decided to 'go big' and try the many 100-hand games available. Whilst these can pay off massively, they are hugely volatile and bad initial deals soon see a bank roll depleted. For those that like VP though Bovado certainly has a lot to offer – over 70 varieties of game are available. My only criticism is that these games haven't changed since they were released many years ago by RTG and I always find the look and feel slightly drab. Of course, if you hit the Royal Flush on these machines I am sure the graphic presentation is going to be overly concerning!
On this round of play I really had nothing worth withdrawing so played around a bit more until my balance was at zero. Bovado is known for paying players though and all withdrawals are processed within around 48 hours of request. Unfortunately, again the slight cloak-and-dagger financial workings of this casino (to avoid unwelcome attention from the US authorities) means only payment by check is possible. Although these are sent out as soon as the payout is approved, they often are sent from banks in foreign countries and Bovada's own site suggest payouts could take up to 25 business days to reach the player. This is echoed on various forums with players often citing around a month of waiting before monies are received. This isn't ideal but I suppose is again one of the 'necessities' with offering online casino facilities to the US market.
Thankfully, the site is slightly more responsive when it comes to customer support with help available around the clock in the form of both email and telephone helpdesks. No live chat is available but the round-the-clock telephone assistance is great for those with issues. Whilst we didn't really have a need to get help (given the site contains a lot of FAQ type assistance anyway), it's good to know real people are there to support you in times of need.
Having recently been playing at non-US friendly sites it was quite interesting to give Bovada a whirl. It has to be said that compared to some of the cutting-edge European-focussed casinos Bovada really doesn't quite match. However, considering this is a US-dedicated casino I think the casino does a great job at providing a site that really is fun to play. The newer slot games in particular are a blast. It's a shame the financial side of the casino is somewhat basic but I think that has to be expected, particularly given what happened to Bodog. And things like the great customer support and healthy bonus scheme certainly keep things sweet for the player. For those that are restricted in where they can play Bovada is certainly worth trying out – this casino does pay if you win and will no doubt continue to work hard to ensure they provide a class service to all those online casino lovers in the United States.
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The Back In Time is fun to play but contains some quite freaky graphics!
The handy in-lobby balance breakdown allows players to see how their eCash balance, bonus balance and casino chip balance is fairing
Big Shot is one of a number of games with Random Jackpot progressives that can be hit at any time!
A big bet and a double-up plays out beautifully after the dealer busts at the Blackjack table
Bonus Deuces Wild is one of the various Video Poker games available at Bovada, many offering the player the chance to play across multiple hands at once
The web-based cashier accepts Visa deposits although annoyingly there is a 4.9% surcharge on this deposit method
Early on in the game I activate the Rook's Revenge bonus game which awards free spins and the chance to get up to a x15 multiplier!
As with a number of casinos, Bovada offers players the chance to hone their skills in freeplay mode before hitting the tables for real
Gold Diggers is one of the newer Bovada slots and offers a great gaming experience with a range of fun graphics and sound effects
I go for a big Keno bet and with a few numbers hitting end up doubling my original stake
With the newer games being quite resource intensive, games can take a while to load when they are first played
The clean-looking Bovada lobby provides access to the cashier as well as a range of different game options
I check out the paytable on the Slots Angels game to see what combinations I need to win big!
Winners all round after my Flush is better than the dealer's Flush at the Tricard Poker table
Some of the newer games have bonus rounds that offer near-video quality graphics