Connect to share and comment
US prohibitions and trade rule blunders fuel high-stakes dispute.
The WTO ruling handed down in 2005 was a victory for Antigua but on very narrow grounds, Rose said. Antigua had wanted the trade group to declare that all U.S. restrictions on internet gambling were trade barriers. That, the WTO declined to do, accepting the U.S. argument that its laws were designed to protect its citizens from predation and were applied to domestic as well as international firms. But the WTO noted that the United States allowed long-distance horse betting under the Interstate Horseracing Act and ruled that it was unfair to disallow international gambling on horse racing as a result.
Rose said the Bush administration could have ended the dispute by asking Congress to make the horseracing act international. Instead, the administration issued a statement in May 2007 informing the WTO that it intended to, belatedly, put internet gambling on the list of exceptions. Rose said that, under the WTO process, this allowed treaty members with internet gambling industries to file claims against the United States seeking compensation, which the EU and others did.
Those claims are still winding their way through the slow WTO process and the ultimate consequences for the United States remain unclear.
The U.S. continues to take a hard line on internet gambling. Shortly before the EU report was released in June, federal attorneys in the Southern District of New York ordered four American banks to freeze more than $30 million in payments to thousands of online poker players who used sites like pokerstars.com, which is based in the Isle of Man in the U.K.
Congressman Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts, has introduced legislation to legalize and regulate internet gambling. How the bill will fare in a U.S. Congress preoccupied with broader economic issues is anyone's guess.
Meanwhile the online gambling controversy continues to fly just under the radar of public opinion.
More GlobalPost dispatches on technology: