Retroactive Online Casino Laws by the US is Causing Outrage

18 December 2008

It seems the US is digging their hole deeper and deeper. When will they get the idea of what the people want? It is yet to be seen.

The fact that the US continues to ignore questions regarding jurisdiction as well as the written laws of its own country has led Europeans to question the wisdom of doing business with the US.

The plea of a major stockholder in Partygaming to unfiled US charges has resulted in recriminations and anger from European trade partners, international legal authorities, and members of the online gambling industry. Pressure applied over the last six years by the US Department of Justice, along with endless legal persecution, caused Partygaming co-founder Anurag Dikshit to pay a penalty of $300 million, only to wait and see if his cooperation will keep him out of jail.

The fact that the US continues to ignore questions regarding jurisdiction as well as the written laws of its own country has led Europeans to question the wisdom of doing business with the US. By all accounts, Partygaming and its subsidiaries are legitimate, responsible businesses that have bent over backward to avoid breaking US law.

The plea was to violations of the Wire Act, a 1961 law designed to prevent bookies from conducting business via telephone. The law has only been used in court regarding online casinos in cases that involved sports betting, which was made illegal on a federal basis in 1992. But Partygaming scrupulously avoided any sports wagering until after it left the US market, specifically to stay on the right side of the law.

When the UIGEA was passed in 2006, Partygaming was among the first Internet gambling operators to pull out of the US market. The company is sold publicly on the London stock exchange, is considered a model good citizen among corporations, and has been named responsible operator of the year by independent industry watchdogs.

Yet, despite protests in general and a direct request from the Commissioner of the European Union to freeze prosecutions until international trade laws can be applied, the US persists in dogged pursuit of those who have offended prosecutors. These officials seem to feel they are not bound by written laws and trade treaties; if, in their minds, criminal behavior occurred, then they will bring all the weight of the US to blackmail and bully toward what they cannot achieve legally, and within the restraints of their authority.

Joseph Weiler, an expert on international trade and economics who teaches at the New York University School of Law, says, “…the US has lost all its cases and appeals before the WTO’s highest judicial authorities. And yet in what can only be described as puzzling and haughty contempt for the rule of law, it is acting as if it won those cases. The US is pursuing European nationals and corporations and threatening them with lengthy jail time and punitive fines based on US laws which have already been unequivocally held to be in violation of American WTO obligations.”

Europeans in other fields are making judgements about doing business in the US based on the handling of the online casinos cases. Many worry that the threat of criminal prosecution may be used for political goals, a very similar problem to doing business in China. At best, the whole affair makes the US look haughty and disrespectful toward its fellow nations. Weiler concludes, “It (prosecution of online gaming operators) serves no discernable American national interest and this is a bad day for the reputation of the US in the area of international law.”

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