Tiny Antigua Grabs The US By Its Illegal, Online Dice

21 November 2006


By Burke Hansen in San Francisco
Tuesday 21st November 2006

Has the time actually come for Congress to read its own legislation?

In the wee hours before Congressmen could head off for their election year recess, they managed to churn out a mound of unread anti-gambling legislation. In their haste to vacate, the lawmakers added fuel to a smoldering trade dispute between the tiny island paradise of Antigua and the superpower to the north. While the conflict centers around online gambling, it could well end up disrupting the businesses of companies such as Microsoft and Google, if the US is unable to fend off the bully Antigua.

The legislation in question primarily sought to restrict access to online gaming sites for American players by criminalizing financial transactions between American financial institutions and the sites in question. It has, however, had the unintended consequence of strengthening Antigua’s hand in its dispute with America before the World Trade Organization (WTO) over the supply of cross border gambling services. As Mark Mendel, Antigua’s lead attorney in the case explained to El Reg:

The new legislation strengthens our arguments that the US permits domestic remote gambling but not foreign remote gambling, as it has a number of ‘carve outs’ for domestic operations that cannot apply to foreign ones. It is just further evidence of the discriminatory effect of US laws and the [American] government’s enforcement of them.

In its hurried attempt to penalize the foreign-based online gaming outfits without offending the American-based horse racing and Indian casino industries, Congress managed to bring into bold relief the crux of Antigua’s claim against the United States – namely that American law treats foreign suppliers of gambling services differently than its own. Such equitable treatment between trading partners forms the backbone of the WTO, and, if Antigua has its way, American intellectual property owners will ultimately pay the price for the American government’s refusal to open its market to at least certain types of internet gambling.



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