More About the Internet Gambling Dispute Between the USA and Antigua

by Lou on March 9, 2006

A reader wrote to me regarding my recent blog entry about the World Trade Organization’s ruling on the online gambling dispute between Antigua and the USA.

He wrote: “I followed the WTO (Antigua/USA) case closely. It was not a big win for Antigua; in fact, it was a win (on points) for the USA. The WTO ruled that the USA can ban internet gambling for moral reasons, as long as they don’t discriminate against Antiguan services. Because the USA currently allows some online horse racing betting, the WTO said that the USA could either legalize all such services (i.e., Antiguan horse race betting services) or ban all of them.

“If the Goodlatte bill were to ban all Internet gambling, it would NOT violate the WTO; in fact, it’s one of two ways for the USA to come in to compliance with last year’s ruling. The other means is for the USA to legalize offshore horse race betting.”

He also suggested reading Chuck Humphrey’s analysis of the WTO ruling at

Perhaps I was a bit overenthusiastic in my earlier take on this issue. I thought that Antigua walked away the winner, although I fully realize that even if the USA fails to comply with the WTO ruling, any sanctions imposed by Antigua will be merely symbolic, because they are such a small trading partner.

This seems to be an issue that has something for everyone, and the more you look into it, the more multifaceted it appears. If you want to get up to speed on these issues, there’s an excellent synopsis by Alan Beattie that appears in the Financial Times, and can be accessed at

Regardless of how much time I spend thinking about this issue, I continue to come away convinced that attempts to outlaw internet gambling are doomed to failure regardless of whatever congressional intent may emerge as new legislation. You just can’t put a Maginot Line around the Internet. After all, the Internet, and the financial transactions that move across it, have no nationality and need no passport to cross a border.

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