RGA Files Online Gambling Complaint Against U.S.

Remaote Gambling AssociationAfter settling this week its WTO cases with the EU and having the decision from the arbitration panel announced in its case with Antigua, it seems the U.S. has new complaint to deal with filed by the Remote Gambling Association.

The Remote Gambling Association came into existence in 2005 due to a merger of the Association of Remote Gambling Operators (ARGO) and the Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (IGGBA). According to the RGA website,

“The RGA represents the world’s largest and most well known remote gambling companies and provides the industry with a single voice on all the issues of importance to regulators, legislators, and key decision makers around the world. “

The complaint by RGA who is representing European Internet gambling companies states the U.S. discriminates by prosecuting foreign gambling companies. The claims argues that by threatening and prosecuting criminal cases that enforce penalties and forfeitures against foreign gaming companies all the while letting domestic gaming operators continue to operate normally (those that offer racetrack betting primarily) is both discriminatory and violates WTO rules.

A former Bush administration trade official and now a trade analyst with Alston & Bird, Nao Matsukata stated,

“If the U.S. discrimination continues, a terrible blow will be dealt to free trade worldwide and the WTO process will be weakened to the detriment of all countries.”

The RGA says that the U.S. online gambling law, Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA), outlawed foreign online gaming operators yet provided U.S. online gaming sites with exemptions. In addition to this, EU stock market lost billions after the UIGEA passed on October of 2006 while the U.S. companies didn’t suffer.

“How would U.S. investors and businessmen feel if they invested in a business in the United Kingdom based on international law commitments, and then suddenly the U.K. not only passed new laws forcing them to shut down their business, but then tried to throw them in jail for past activities while still allowing their domestic competitors to continue on doing the same thing?” asked Clive Hawkswood, the chief executive of the RGA.

The RGA also points to the fact that the DOJ has not prosecuted any U.S. online gaming companies.

This complaint forces an investigation by the E.U. for “discriminatory enforcement as an illegal barrier to trade.” and it is filed under the EU Trade Barriers Regulation. If the investigation proves to show any discrimination, the EU can negotiate again with the U.S. or proceed with a WTO case.

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