WTO Dispute over online gambling

There has now been a result in a WTO dispute between Antigua and Barbuda and the United States regarding restrictions to online gambling. The two Caribbean countries brought the dispute against the United States because they claimed that its restrictions towards online gambling included in three pieces of legislation (the Wire Act, the Travel Act and the Illegal Gambling Business Act) went against their obligations in the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The case was also brought against legislations that regulate online gambling that exist in 8 different states (Colorado, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, South Dakota and Utah). It was argued that the United States could not impose blanket prohibitions against online gambling because it did allow distance-betting under some circumstances, and that the prohibitions established discrimination for foreign suppliers of services.

This is a very complex case that shows just why the international dispute settlement is so important for international trade. In the first instance of the dispute, the panel ruled against the United States. The Appellate Body has produced a ruling that is more favourable to the U.S. than the previous one, but it has still considered that the three federal acts mentioned are in violation of the country’s responsibilities in GATS, and has recommended that the U.S. should take steps to comply with these. It seems like the legislation will have to be amended in some way. As this article points out, it is unlikely that the ruling will do anything to stop online gambling, the existing legislation is difficult to enforce.

The important question is, are Antigua and Barbuda in the song Kokomo?

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