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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

E.U. Looks to Negotiate After Finding U.S. in Violation of Trade Laws

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The United States has been known to use the World Trade Organization when it suits its purposes, as many members of the WTO tend to do, but the European Union has found fault with the U.S. and seems unwilling to allow any disregard for the rules in this circumstance. The E.U.’s European Commission recently found the U.S. guilty of violating international trade practices regarding online gaming businesses, and it most recently indicated that it will require the start of negotiations in order to refrain from pursuing legal action.

It began after the U.S. passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006, at which point many European-based businesses fled the United States market for fear of possible prosecution by the U.S. Department of Justice. The move hurt most of those internet gaming businesses, some to the point of crippling or shutting them down altogether. It was soon after that the Remote Gambling Association filed an official complaint and the European Commission began its investigation into the matter. When the results were released in a report in late March, the European Union announced that it did find that the United States’ attempted ban on online gaming violated the terms of international trade laws established and agreed upon through the WTO.

But it wasn’t until June 10, 2009, that the European Union came out with its recommendations and intentions of dealing with the violation. Because of the UIGEA ban, European-based online gaming sites are unfairly prevented from doing business with U.S. residents, which has caused those companies harm in the amount of more than $100 billion, and those companies would like to see the U.S. compensate for said losses through trade concessions, which are provided for in the WTO rules. While the European Union is considering a lawsuit for damages and the violation of international trade rules, it is willing the give the United States the opportunity to begin negotiation talks instead.

Since relations between the European Union and the United States have improved dramatically in the six months since President Barack Obama took office, the E.U. hopes to speak with the Obama Administration about the issue, especially in light of the recent introduction of Rep. Barney Frank’s legislation that would repeal the UIGEA and open the markets again to international businesses in the online gaming industry. However, E.U. officials plan to tread lightly on the issue as they are in broader negotiations for a new WTO deal that would boost world trade in light of the global recession.

The report stands firm that U.S. practices are discriminatory and in violation of the WTO, and it will only be a matter of time before decisions are made to act and negotiations begin. In the meantime, the Safe and Secure Internet Gambling Initiative has released a statement about the issue.

Said Jeffrey Sandman, the SSIGI spokesperson, “The European Commission report provides yet another reason why the administration and Congress should support pending legislation to regulate internet gambling, which would resolve the trade agreement violation and better protect consumers. The Obama Administration should seek to forge a new direction on internet gambling, rather than keeping in place a protectionist trade policy that hypocritically discriminates against foreign online gambling operators.”

The SSIGI’s position is that Frank’s bill, the Internet Gambling Regulation Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2009 would stop the Department of Justice pursuits of various companies participating in the online gaming business and allow the European Union to drop its WTO complaint against the U.S. It would reopen trade in the multi-billion dollar a year industry that could benefit Europe and the United States in a critical economic time that deserves all of the assistance it can garner.

Everyone from poker players to supporters of personal freedoms and rights are encouraged to contact their Congressional representatives to express their views on the issue. That can be done through the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) or SSIGI, as there are pre-written letters in place, though they can be changed as the writer sees fit, to be e-mailed directly to members of Congress. The process is simple, and the poker community must take this opportunity to stand up for our rights. Support the E.U.’s decision and ask that the U.S. government take an active stance on the regulation of online gaming.

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