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 Post subject: From Bloomberg.com
PostPosted: Wed Dec 19, 2007 10:45 am 
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Dec. 17 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. refusal to comply with a World Trade Organization decision on online gambling is threatening to undermine the entire set of rules binding the international trade system.

The WTO is to decide soon on a demand from the tropical nation of Antigua and Barbuda for $3.4 billion in annual compensation from the U.S., whose law banning Americans from wagering on Internet gaming sites was first ruled illegal by the WTO in 2004.

The implications of the case go far beyond Antigua, a nation of 69,000. That's because, instead of rewriting its gambling laws, the U.S. rewrote its trade rules to remove the issue from the WTO's jurisdiction. The prospect that other nations, including China, may take a similar tack if cases don't go their way has spooked the international trade community.

``This is by far the most significant WTO case ever,'' says Naotaka Matsukata, a policy adviser in Washington with Alston + Bird LLP and a former U.S. trade official. Matsukata's firm represents British companies that process online payments, including gambling payments.

Meanwhile, Antigua, which has rebuffed U.S. overtures to settle, wants WTO permission to waive intellectual-property protection on digital software and entertainment so it can collect its compensation. That is raising alarm among trade associations that represent such companies as Microsoft Inc., General Electric Co.'s Universal Pictures and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., as well as among groups such as the Recording Industry Association of America.

Roaring

``Antigua literally is the mouse that roared,'' says Robert Lighthizer, head of the international trade practice at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.

The fight began a decade ago, after Jay Cohen, a former options trader from California, moved to Antigua. There, he set up a sports book that accepted online bets from around the globe. U.S. prosecutors said the enterprise was illegal, and Cohen returned to fight the charges. In 2000, a federal jury found him guilty, and he spent 17 months in a Las Vegas prison.

Returning to the Caribbean nation, Cohen persuaded the government to bring a WTO complaint against the U.S. The island's booming gambling industry, which at its height in 2001 accounted for more than 10 percent of employment, helped finance the case, which Antigua filed in 2003.

Banking on Victory

The dispute dragged on, with Antigua's gambling industry, led by Cohen, banking on a clean win that would open the U.S. market.

Instead, the conflict has multiplied, with other U.S. trading partners with online-gambling interests -- including Japan, the European Union and Canada -- following Antigua's lead in demanding compensation from the U.S.

The U.S., EU, Canada and Japan agreed today on terms for compensation that include giving service suppliers from those nations guaranteed access to the U.S. postal and courier, research and development, storage and warehouse markets.

``We would've written a check to Antigua, paid them to go away,'' says John Magnus, a trade lawyer at Miller & Chevalier in Washington. ``Instead, they pressed the point.''

`Pique and Anger'

Magnus says ``the strategy they've pursued is not designed to advance the interests of Antigua. It's pique and anger from some individual businessmen.''

Cohen declined to comment. Gretchen Hamel, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Trade Representative's office, declined to comment.

A lawyer representing Antigua says it's the U.S. stance that jeopardizes global trade. ``The U.S. has been a big beneficiary to this system,'' says Mark Mendel, a partner in the Cork, Ireland, office of Mendel-Blumenfeld LLP. ``They have a real stake in keeping everybody believing in it and following its rules. This is going to weaken the entire institution.''

After the U.S. lost the case in 2005, the Bush administration invoked a WTO rule that allowed it to revise its trade obligations. ``This is the trade equivalent of taking our ball and going home,'' Representative Shelley Berkley, a Nevada Democrat, told the House Judiciary Committee in November. ``You can be sure that if China one day decides that it shouldn't have to comply with its WTO obligations, we will be the first to object.''

The U.S. decision to strip gambling from its WTO obligations won praise from professional sports, including the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association.

Raising the Ante

``It is clear to us that the United States never intended to make a commitment with respect to gambling services,'' the group wrote in an August letter to U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

The U.S. raised the ante in October 2006, passing a law placing further restrictions on online gambling. That hurt European firms such as PartyGaming Plc, Bwin Interactive Entertainment AG and SportingBet Plc.

Last month, EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson visited Washington to encourage Congress to pass legislation liberalizing U.S. gambling laws.

The other twist in the case is that Antigua trades so few goods that it would be unable to collect enough compensation by raising tariffs, the way aggrieved trading partners typically resolve disputes.

Tourism

Tourism is the main contributor to Antigua's $875 million economy. The country exports about $40 million a year in goods and services to the U.S. and imports about $350 million, so taxing products from the U.S. would mainly hurt Antiguan consumers and businesses.

The island nation's proposed remedy -- WTO permission to waive intellectual-property protection on some software -- raises concerns in Hollywood as well as among technology companies such as Microsoft. The Motion Picture Association of America says the U.S. should retaliate by stripping Antigua of any trade or foreign-aid preferences.

``Does it make sense for a country to expressly allow criminal conduct? We believe it most certainly does not,'' says Jonathan Lamy, a spokesman for the Recording Industry Association of America.

While software and technology lobbyists say it's unlikely Antigua will get what it's asking for, they say they are concerned nonetheless.

``The demand by Antigua is ridiculous,'' said Morgan Reed, executive director of the Association for Competitive Technology, the industry trade group that includes companies such as Microsoft and eBay. ``The scary thing is that they're asking for it.''

To contact the reporter on this story: Lorraine Woellert in Washington at lwoellert@bloomberg.net .

Last Updated: December 17, 2007 13:27 EST


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 Post subject: Re: From Bloomberg.com
PostPosted: Sun Apr 11, 2010 7:56 am 
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Joined: Sun Mar 14, 2010 12:01 pm
Posts: 205
I guess that ultimately it all boils down to the fact that I really don't understand where this lack of support comes from within the US. Wouldn't the people in govt just want to make a stand and support this in order to get better playing conditions for participants?


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 Post subject: Re: From Bloomberg.com
PostPosted: Thu Jun 03, 2010 10:04 pm 
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You gotta be kidding, the government do anything for the people, that's insane thinking... they only do it when it lines their own pockets no matter what country you live in.


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 Post subject: Re: From Bloomberg.com
PostPosted: Sat Jun 05, 2010 9:02 pm 
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Joined: Sun Mar 21, 2010 9:00 pm
Posts: 338
Oh Spunky have you ever hit the nail on the head. Even here in Canada it's the same thing. We have a Provincial Premier who ran on a "no new tax" platform to win and now has taxed us to death and as of July 1st is bringing in an HST (Harmonized Sales Tax) which means everything we buy will be taxed at 13% where before some were at 8% and some were at 5% now they are harmonizing on everything.

That's how they line their pockets. This is on top of a new gas tax, hydro tax, and anything else tax that he could arrange.


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