One for the punter

The Financial Times “reports(link to Subscription page on the FT site)”: [sub] that the USA has lost a case on internet gambling brought by Antigua and Barbuda. The Carribbean states claimed that the USA must, under its own schedule of commitments on services trade, allow off-shore casinos access to customers that is equivalent to the access that US laws allow to domestic casinos. The United States objected that it should be allowed to block the foreign suppliers under provisions allowing WTO members to protect citizens from moral harm. It looks like Antigua and Barbuda have won. Here is an extract from the original claim by A&B: bq.  The total prohibition of gambling and betting services offered from outside the United States appears to conflict with the United States’ obligations under GATS and its Schedule of Specific Commitments annexed to the GATS (and in particular Sector 10.D thereof) for the following reasons: bq.

    (a) The central, regional or local authorities of the United States allow numerous operators of United States origin to offer all types of gambling and betting services in the United States (sometimes via exclusive rights or monopolistic structures). There appears to be no possibility for foreign operators, however, to obtain an authorization to supply gambling and betting services from outside the United States. This appears to conflict with the United States’ commitments and obligations under GATS, including Articles VI:1, VI:3, VIII:1, VIII:5, XVI:1, XVI:2, XVII:1, XVII:2 and XVII:3 and its Schedule of Specific Commitments.


    (b) The United States authorities also restrict international transfers and payments relating to gambling and betting services offered from outside the United States. Some of the non-legislative measures listed in Section III of the Annex are examples thereof: the measures described in the documents released by the Florida Attorney General and the New York Attorney General. These restrictions appear to violate Articles VI:1, XI:1, XVI:1, XVII:1, XVII:2 and XVII:3 of GATS and the United States’ Schedule of Specific Commitments.

The recommendations of the WTO disputes panel are still ‘confidential’ so it will be May before we are likely to see the details. But this case could have broad effects, not only in the United States where the Federal Authorities appear to want to restrict access to internet betting but also in other WTO member states where access to off-shore services potentially supplied across the internet is more restricted than access to domestic services. The FT claims that Antigua and Barbuda have already cornered a large part of the global online gambling market that they estimate is worth more than $US6bn.

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