TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: WTO Gives United States Until April 3 to Change Gambling Laws

WTO Gives United States Until April 3 to Change Gambling Laws

Reuters News Wire (
Fri, 19 Aug 2005 13:21:53 -0500

A World Trade Organization arbiter on Friday gave the United States
until April 3 to comply with a ruling that a ban on Internet gambling
services offered by Antigua violates the body's rules.

U.S. officials had sought a July deadline.

United States Trade Representative's Office press secretary Neena
Moorjani said on Friday the USTR would examine the ruling and do its
best to accede to the timeframe.

But she said the change would not necessarily loosen U.S.
restrictions on Internet gambling.

The arbiter's decision was the latest stage in a long-running "David
against Goliath" case brought by Antigua & Barbuda, a small Caribbean
nation that has invested heavily in the electronic gambling industry
to boost its economy and job opportunities.

A WTO dispute panel and an appeals body both found largely in favor of
Antigua's complaint over the ban, which has kept U.S. banks and major
Internet search engines from doing business with gambling firms on the

The arbiter, German trade expert Claus-Dieter Ehlermann, said he
recognized the U.S. task would be difficult due to the highly
regulated nature of Internet gambling and betting in the United
States, but was not convinced a July deadline was needed.

Antiguan officials say they are confident the United States will
conform, but trade diplomats say Antigua could do little if the
legislative changes were not made on time, or at all, other than press
the case further within the WTO.

"The United States has already announced its intention to comply with
the WTO findings," the USTR's Moorjani said.

"USTR will not ask Congress to weaken U.S. restrictions on Internet
gambling. We had asked for 15 months to comply as it was our
reasonable and realistic estimate of the necessary amount of time. But
we are studying the arbitrator's award and will do our utmost to
comply," she added.

WTO countries whose trade partners are found to have failed to
implement dispute rulings can be authorized to impose sanctions,
usually in the form of extra tariffs, on goods or services from the
offending nations.

But small countries often find retaliating against the United States
is mostly useless; the current U.S. administration largely does as it

Copyright 2005 Reuters Limited.

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