What’s Next Now That the USA Ignored the WTO Ruling About Online Gaming?

by Lou on April 10, 2006

The April 3 deadline imposed on the United States by the World Trade Organization to stop discriminating against Internet casinos in foreign countries was ignored, which really shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s followed this issue here or on other sites.

By way of a quick recap, last year the WTO sided with Antigua in finding the United States’ online gaming laws unfair to other nations because of exceptions offered in the U.S. Interstate Horseracing Act and other statutes that allow some wagering on the Internet.

The United States asked for a year’s delay in order to implement accommodating federal legislation. But the deadline passed on April 3 with no action from the US. Antigua’s counsel, Mark Mendel, said last Tuesday that he was formally advised by the office of the U.S. trade representative that there would be no further negotiations.

“Our request to have meaningful negotiations was rejected,” Mendel said. He added, “If the United States won’t go back to the WTO bargaining table, measures initiated this week under WTO procedures would seek compensatory trade sanctions against the United States.

One sanction Antigua was likely to seek from the WTO, according to Mendel, would be to lift U.S. patent and copyright protections in Antigua. Such action could trigger a wave of knockoff manufacturing of previously copyright protected U.S. products such as music CDs or computer software.

Mendel stated that the WTO once granted similar patent waivers as compensation in a case involving Ecuador.

The WTO’s decision might also motivate other nations that allow online gambling to pursue similar claims in order to gain legal access to U.S. bettors.

Perhaps Antigua’s minister of finance, L. Errol Cort, summed it up best when he said. “If a small nation like Antigua takes on the world’s greatest superpower and wins, and if they are going to ignore that reality, it makes you wonder about the long-term prospects for this system. “It’s got to be fair for everybody.”

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