Hey! Where’s that official, public report from the World Trade Organization in the dispute over online gaming between the USA and Antigua?

by Lou on March 29, 2007

Back in January I reported that the United States suffered another setback in long legal battle with Antigua over Internet gambling restrictions.

The trade dispute between the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda and the United States centers on whether the United States should drop prohibitions on Americans placing bets in online casinos. A World Trade Organization ruling said that some U.S. laws were in line with international commerce rules, but others were not.

Antigua’s position is that that the United States has not complied with World Trade Organization (WTO) recommendations and rulings. The U.S. asserts that its laws are in line with trade rules. Antigua claims that online gaming is a lucrative source of revenue and provides an income for hundreds of islanders. They claim that US prohibitions harm Antiguan efforts to diversify what is now almost exclusively a tourist-based economy.

Antigua filed its case before the WTO in 2003, with the tiny nation — Antigua and Barbuda has a population of approximately 70,000 — still grappling with the economic muscle of the United States. An April 2005 WTO ruling, which both sides claimed as vindication, focused on the narrow issue of horse racing, saying that foreign betting operators appeared to suffer discrimination.

A three member panel met a few months ago to review the facts and render a decision. This resulted in a preliminary confidential report issued in January to both parties. A final, public report will be issued in March.

Gretchen Hamel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, confirmed that the WTO panel “did not agree with the United States that we had taken the necessary steps to comply” with that ruling.

March has come and is nearly gone. I’m waiting to see the public report, which ought to be released any day now, and along with it, some official commentary from the US Government.

You ought to be eagerly awaiting this report too. It should provide some much needed muscle to push the US to modify its stance regarding gaming. While Antigua is a tiny nation that poses no real economic threat to the United States, if the ruling serves as a rallying point for larger nations with legally regulated online gaming — such as the UK — to stand shoulder to shoulder with Antigua, there might be enough leverage for something positive to happen.

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