Next month marks the 5-year anniversary of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, which has been about as welcome in the online betting community as a rattlesnake in your sleeping bag.
It's impossible to understate the chaos that UIGEA has created, from the establishment of hundreds of offshore sites -- many of them unscrupulous -- to Tuesday's indictment of TV poker personalities Howard Lederer and Chris Ferguson at Full Tilt . . . the 2006 law has played a prominent role in all of it.
But UIGEA's most obvious victim has been trust. Most bettors, forced to wager offshore, simply don't know what sites are good and what sites aren't. What sites will pay quickly and what sites sit on money. Had UIGEA never been signed into law by George Bush, the online betting landscape would be much different today. Not to say there would not be problems, but it would not be the 100-car pileup that it has become.
Politicians have mostly tiptoed around efforts to repeal UIGEA, fearful of a conservative movement that now appears on the rise in the United States. There is some momentum toward legalization and regulation, but it's impossible to gauge how strong the tide is toward repeal.
In the meantime, we can just sit, wait and wonder what other sites the U.S. Dept. of Justice is planning to close down. All thanks to a law that passed 5 years ago even though many congressmen didn't even know what they were voting for.
Happy birthday, UIGEA.