EU investigating U.S. online gambling restrictions

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The European Commission announced Monday it will be investigating allegations that a U.S. ban on Internet gambling discriminates against EU operators, according to a story with Agence France-Presse.

The EC, which is the European Union's executive branch, is planning a five- to seven-month probe which will try to determine whether U.S. restrictions break international trade rules and then raise the matter with Washington.

"The [United States] has the right to address legitimate public policy concerns relating to Internet gambling but discrimination against EU companies cannot be part of the policy mix," said EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson in a statement.

The issue at hand is that the United States has effectively blocked all foreign gambling sites from the market while letting domestic operators, especially horse betting organizations, go about their business as usual.

The EU's action has been applauded by the Remote Gambling Association, an industry organization that filed its own complaint in December accusing the U.S. Department of Justice of discrimination against international operators.

"It is unfortunate that the industry has been forced to pursue this issue as far as a formal trade complaint," said Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, in a press release. "As the industry trade association we cannot simply sit on the side-lines and watch while our members, who are already badly bruised by unlawful U.S. acts, suffer the double whammy of being prosecuted for activities whilst the U.S. industry is not. By any analysis, the U.S. policy is fundamentally unfair and we are delighted the Commission shares our concern and alarm."

Since being passed as an attachment to the Safe Port Act in October 2007 UIGEA has faced criticism from numerous sources including Antigua and Europe, and even domestically from organizations like the Poker Players' Alliance.

U.S. congressman Barney Frank has since introduced a bill titled the Internet Gambling Regulation and Enforcement Act that would see online gaming legalized, regulated and taxed. The bill currently has 46 co-sponsors.

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