One for the punter

The Finan­cial Times “reports(link to Sub­scrip­tion page on the FT site)”:http://www.ft.com/servlet/ContentServer?pagename=FT.com/StoryFT/FullStory&c=StoryFT&cid=1079419901331&p=1012571727102 [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.

bq.

    (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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