WTO Official Ruling: US Internet Gambling Ban Illegal

30 March 2007


By Warren Giles

March 30 (Bloomberg) — The U.S. ban on offshore Internet gambling payments is illegal, the World Trade Organization said today, upholding a previous decision that allowed for possible sanctions…

Antigua and Barbuda, a Caribbean nation of 80,000 people, has challenged Bush administration efforts to close the estimated $12 billion global business to U.S. residents, who account for half of the market. The U.S. banned credit card companies from processing payments to betting sites such as SportingBet, Leisure & Gaming Plc, PartyGaming and Empire Online Ltd., which then ceased U.S. operations or sold them for nominal amounts…

Today’s ruling “ vindicates all that we have been saying for years about the discriminatory trade practices of the United States,” Antiguan Finance Minister Errol Cort said in an e-mailed statement…

Antigua, the smallest government ever to lodge a WTO complaint, scored an initial victory against U.S. online gambling restrictions when the WTO found in April 2005 that the U.S. had pledged to open the industry to competition 10 years earlier. Today’s ruling rejects a U.S. appeal against that…

The U.S. agreed that today’s ruling finds it failed to comply with the two-year-old decision…

Still, the U.S. says the report allows it to maintain a ban on Internet gambling to “protect public order and public morals” as long as it doesn’t discriminate against foreign companies…

The U.S. “had an opportunity to remove the ambiguity” between legalized betting on horse racing across state borders and bans on other forms of gambling, the WTO judges wrote in today’s 41-page decision. “Instead, rather than take that opportunity, the U.S. enacted legislation that confirmed that the ambiguity at the heart of this dispute remains,” today’s report concludes…

The U.S. says that its latest law isn’t covered by the WTO ruling and said that its 1995 commitment to open gambling to foreign companies was an oversight by the Clinton administration…


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