WTO to Rule on Internet Gambling - Tuesday 12th of April 2005

A World Trade Organization appeals panel is expected to rule Thursday on whether the United States should drop prohibitions on Americans placing bets in online casinos - a decision that could open the nation to Internet gambling.

 

If the appeals panel rules against Washington, it could allow U.S. residents to take part in offshore Internet gambling.

 

Last year, a WTO report confirmed a preliminary ruling in a dispute pitting the United States against the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, saying the U.S. ban represented an unfair trade barrier.

 

The United States contends that Internet gambling should be prohibited because it violates some U.S. state laws. Washington appealed the ruling and said it would "vigorously" contest the ruling before the WTO's seven-member appeals body.

 

Antigua filed the case before the WTO in 2003, contending that U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling violated trade commitments the United States made as a member of the 148-nation WTO.

 

"I feel that the law's strongly on our side," Mark Mendel, legal counsel for Antigua in the case, told The Associated Press. "I hope that the appellate body sees it that way too."

 

U.S. trade officials disagreed, saying that negotiators involved in the Uruguay Round of global trade talks, which created the WTO in 1995, clearly intended to exclude gambling.

 

Antiguan authorities also argued that restrictions that barred U.S. residents from betting at offshore casinos were harming their country's efforts to diversify its economy. Antigua has been promoting electronic commerce as a way to end the twin-island nation's reliance on tourism, a sector hurt by a series of hurricanes in the late 1990s.

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