Online Gambling and the WTO


The WTO, World Trade Organization, has ruled that US laws outlawing Internet gambling conflict with the agreement the US signed when becoming a signatory to the WTO and GATS.  This ruling went against both Federal and State restrictions.


The action before the WTO was brought by Antigua and Barbuda, stating these US laws denied them fair access to the US gambling business.  They argued if they were denied access, then all of the US laws with regard to remote gaming should be repealed and that every form of gambling should be illegal in the US.


This would have a negative effect on interstate horse racing.  Also, the gaming interest in the US could not advertise their businesses.  The US gaming industry was not for Internet gambling, as this opened them up to more competition.  It would also cause problems for the Native American casinos. 


This ruling brings further dislike for the WTO in Congress, as some politicians feel that we are giving away our sovereignty when outside bodies rule against us.  This ruling does not end the matter, as there is an exception which states a country can get around equal access for businesses by stating they are concerned about the public moral and good order.  Of course if the US goes this route, there will need to be some nose-holding as the gaming industry in this country is alive and well.  There is also the claim that this access could be used for money laundering and for other illegal actions.  This is the reason that many banks, as well as American Express, will not let their credit cards be used to pay for gaming purchases.  There is also the claim that they must protect the underaged, and those who are afflicted by a gambling addiction. 


How this will finally be resolved is going to come about through negotiating the way the US can protect its citizens and be assured these are regulated businesses.  The countries that host these gaming firms are more than willing to put into force strong regulations with regard to the way these firms will be regulated.  Many have a vested interest in letting this industry grow as it provides jobs and income to their people.


In the US, there is a puritanical streak against any form of gambling, and these interests are very vocal to their politicians.  These are blocks of votes that influence at election time.  Politicians are hard pressed to go against large voting blocks.  Yet they are not averse to taking campaign contributions from gaming interests and Native American casinos.  There is another factor at play here.  Our Federal government is looking for ways to gain some control of the Internet.   They worry about the free access of all kinds of information.  This control of information could be trying to keep bomb-making plans off the Internet.   It could also be the fact that there is a very quick access to facts that the government may not want to see the light of day.

In any event, there are valid reasons and some very suspect reasons why the US is fighting Internet gambling.  The government receives no money from this activity, and the offshore casinos do not have to report earnings to our tax people.  Some wonder if the US government would be so upset if they were getting part of the take. 


The next few months will bring a resolution to this legal dance.  The Internet is not controlled by any government, and due to its nature, it may never be controlled.  People have gotten used to doing what they wanted to do in the comfort of their own homes.  This is a hard crowd to take something away from.


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