WTO e-casino ruling a boon for Antigua

The government of Antigua announced that the WTO ruling will help maintain economic stability in the country and fight illegal drug operations.

The statement of the Antigua government followed after the World Trade Organization’s issued in March an interim ruling which found that the U.S. law was criminalizing online gambling in violation of international treaties.

“We lost many jobs as a result of the U.S. laws,” said Sir Ronald Sanders, Antigua’s ambassador to the WTO, quoted by Bloomberg News. “This is justice done and a victory for the WTO dispute system. This proves that a small country like ours can take on a big nation and win.”

According to Antiguan authorities about 5,000 of the country’s 70,000 people, including some of the best educated, have been employed by online casinos and after the adoption of U.S. anti-gambling laws those casinos have declined drastically.

Sanders said that the U.S. sanctions against online gaming, particularly, laws restricting credit-card payments, have undermined the island nation’s fledgling economy. He also said it is a better alternative to tourism which depends on weather conditions. Internet gambling account for about a sixth of Antigua’s $200 million yearly revenue, the ambassador said.

The U.S. ambassador to the WTO, Linnet Deily, said the U.S. law “The United States has grave concerns over the financial and social risks posed by such activities to its citizens, particularly but not exclusively children.” She also argues that Internet gambling operations are a potential boon to terrorists as they facilitate money laundering.

The U.S. Justice Department alleged that online casinos violate the 1961 Wire Communications Act, which was written to cover sports betting via telephone.

Antigua countered by saying that Internet gambling is a part of the war on drugs. “The industry provides much needed employment to thousands of our bright and computer-literate young people,” Sanders told the AP last year. “It has provided them with a means of livelihood without which they might have been forced to turn to unlawful activity, such as illegal drug trade which now plagues the Caribbean region.”

Last year, the U.S. House of Representatives proposed a ban on the use of credit-card and other electronic payment systems for gambling debts. But legislators have retained a provision allowing horse racing as racetracks and off track betting parlors which rely heavily on credit-card transactions.

According to Richard Mills, a spokesman for the U.S. Trade Representative’s office, the interim ruling, the full text of which remains unavailable to public, was “deeply flawed” and that the U.S. would appeal. He added that American commitments on services were “clearly intended to exclude gambling when the United States joined the WTO in 1995.”

The Department of Justice declared that Internet gambling breaks a 1961 federal law outlawing the placing and taking of bets across state lines.

Some billionaires have already noticed the bright future of gambling in the Internet. Last week, Richard Branson’s Virgin Group announced it would partner in an Internet gambling “portal” starting this summer, Forbes.com informed.

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