WTO deadline

There has been a great deal of ambiguity about the WTO decision in the Antigua/US dispute. Both sides have claimed victory, and there is no real roadmap for what is going to happen. I’m chairing a session on this at G2E, which may feature debate between representatives of the US and Antigua, or may not.

Today’s story is that the US has been given an April deadline to comply with the WTO ruling, though I’m not sure exactly what that entails.

From Yahoo:

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 island.

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 gives U.S. till April to change gambling law

First, I just reflected on something. Let’s say 15 years ago I told someone I got a legal/tech news story from “Yahoo.” They’d think it was a friend of Bozo the Clown or something, wouldn’t they? How quickly we get used to new things.

That aside, it is unclear just exactly how the US will “comply” with the ruling without easing restrictions on Internet gaming, but I guess we’ll find out in April.

In a related story, David Kesmodel of the Wall Street Journal has a good piece on something that has been below the radar, a website called WagerFree (certainly an interesting concept–if you stake nothing, how can you wager?). It’s available to subscribers, but I’ll post this tease that gives you a sense of the story:

WagerFree.com promotes itself as a “safe, easy and legal” Web site that
helps gamblers place bets on a wide range of sporting events. Gambling
has become big business on the Internet, and new sites crop up all the
time. What’s notable about this site, however, is that it isn’t
operating from Antigua, Costa Rica or one of the other offshore havens
popular with online casinos. WagerFree.com is based in Reno, Nev.

The site (www.wagerfree.com) is owned by Garet Bradford, a 36-year-old
former personal trainer who said he has customers throughout the U.S.
Mr. Bradford said the site is legal because he’s not a bookmaker – a
person who accepts and pays off bets in exchange for a commission.
WagerFree.com doesn’t have a gambling license. None of Nevada’s 175
licensed sports books is authorized to accept bets over the Internet.

Mr. Bradford said he is simply offering a matchmaking service for
bettors. He said he matches up people who want to bet on sporting
events, in exchange for a $10 monthly “club” fee. He said this exempts
him from gambling regulations, and is advantageous for gamblers because
they don’t have to pay “juice,” or commissions of about 10% of the wager
that are charged by bookmakers in Las Vegas casinos and elsewhere.

But WagerFree.com’s luck may be turning. Several gamblers have
complained they are owed money from WagerFree.com for winnings that
haven’t been paid. And some legal analysts question Mr. Bradford’s
contention that WagerFree.com isn’t a gambling operation.

If you are a subscriber, check the Ecommerce/media section for the article–it’s very good.

Internet gaming continues to be a huge story.

Spread the love