A little more than a year ago, thousands of dedicated sports fans were getting ready for football season, 2006. Bonus offers were ubiquitous, money transfer options were plentiful, and more unique betting shops were open than any player could reasonably take advantage of during the few short months of football. Fast forward 12 months to the present and the deafening roar of football betting excitement has faded into the sounds of silence. Promotional offers and player incentives have all but disappeared. The once-vibrant sports forums have begun to go extinct, and those that survived are crunched not just for advertisers, but also for the eyes of gamblers. The once-goldmine that was online gambling promotion has nearly gone the way of the dinosaurs.
The telephones have also gone mostly dead, except for those always dedicated cold-callers at BetRoyal and the First Fidelity group. The promotional mailings are greatly reduced from previous volume, much to the joy of my local mail carrier, although the touts-extraordinaire at ATS Consultants only took a week to track me down at my new mailing address. I guess the early bird gets the worm (or the sucker gambler).
Online sportsbooks have taken a big hit in the past year. Football 2006 might have seen a typical gambler fund accounts at Pinnacle, BetCRIS, VIP, BetonSports and Sportingbet. A year later, none of those are available to U.S.-based players (though Bookmaker has spun off from BetCRIS to service Americans). Those sportsbooks who remain open to U.S. customers are dealing with reduced volume due to the huge amount of wagering action that has traditionally come from American clients, many of whom are now shut out from online gambling due to lack of knowledge or inconvenience.
Of course there are those whose stock improved in the past year. While the payment processors who were the backbone of the e-gaming industry have had to navigate minefields (with many having taken plenty of shrapnel), those who survived are reaping the benefits of supply and demand economics. Neteller's fees were outrageous when processing was a much easier task in 2006 - those who have stepped in to fill the gap in today's volatile climate can pretty much name their price. Sportsbooks have little option but to concede, lest the entire industry crumble under them.
The legal bet-pushers are probably not doing too shabby either. "The crack cocaine of gambling" along with the explosion of recreational poker, gave the huddled masses a quick taste of the high-roller life before being viciously yanked away, leaving lotteries and land-based casinos as the only gambling fixes that don't require jumping through never-ending hoops. The proliferation of racinos and Indian betting parlors, particular on the East Coast, is certainly an indicator that gambling dollars are still being spent somewhere, although now a little closer to home.
Of course, the corner bookies, "locals" in offshore parlance, have also seen their stock, and client base, grow dramatically. If a player wants to get down on a Monday Night Football parlay, its much easier to put it in with the guy down at the bar rather than trying to maneuver through offshore hurdles. Convenience is the name of the game for recreational bettors, and the Mafioso-types who have run stateside gambling operations have plenty of experience in dealing with moving money along the underground currents. UIGEA doesn't have much teeth to those used to dealing with RICO.
Another winner worth mentioning, ironically, is the NFL's precious child, fantasy football. Average Joes have always supplemented their game wagers with a healthy dose of fantasy team management, but now with offshore betting options suddenly prohibitively complicated, fantasy football is a convenient way for the less-motivated amongst us to get their Sunday fix. It is no surprise that most of the gambling opponents are also ardent supporters of fantasy sports. When it becomes harder for consumers to spend their entertainment dollars on internet gambling, someone has to be there to cash in, and who better than the leagues themselves? The fact that it is, essentially, still gambling on the outcome of sporting events seems not to bother the high-minded sports leagues execs perching on the soapbox of sports gambling prohibition. Ironic, perhaps, but no surprise in the hypocritical world of professional athletics.
And of course those who cashed in on e-gaming IPOs are sitting pretty. The owners of VIP, Party Gaming, Neteller, and the other bookies and peripherals who went public look like geniuses, having seen the capitalization of their companies evaporate during NFL 2007. They bought low and sold high, leaving short those who jumped at their once-promising public offerings.
So, a year later, where has UIGEA, questionably legal federal prosecutions against foreign nationals and corporations, and blatant disregard for international trade agreement landed us? Not very far from where we started. Has online gambling stopped? No. Perhaps it has lessened, but only because those gambling dollars are underground in other venues. If we are trying to stop gambling, we have failed, as was inevitable when you are trying to buck inherent human nature with heavy-handed politics.
Has money laundering stopped? No, if you even can call the willful transfer of private funds illegal. Money is still moving around, it is just further underground and even less traceable than before. If we are trying to eliminate money laundering to fringe terrorist groups, we have done nothing. Even if you thought the relatively-free cash-flow across international borders was a problem, driving it underground certainly exacerbates the problems of tracking where the real dangerous money is moving.
Gambling is still going on, bookies are still in business, and those motivated enough to wager offshore have found plenty of ways to git 'r done. Momentum for change on the poitical level has greatly faded, but that is less because of principal, and more because those who want to gamble still can, one way or another. As they say, "where there's a will, there's a way", and where there're lines being offered, there will always be a way to get down on them.
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