EU-U.S. online gambling dispute intensifies

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The United States seems to be on a collision course with European Union online gambling companies based on the country's Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act.

Reuters released a story earlier this week that said the dispute between the remote operators and the U.S. could soon be headed to the World Trade Organization.

"It looks very much as if this matter will ... be sent to the WTO at the end of the commission's investigation," said Lode Van Den Hende, an outside counsel for the Remote Gambling Association.

The European Commission began an investigation after the RGA complained about being excluded from the U.S. online gaming market. The real issue is that the U.S. has allowed some American-based online gambling entities, especially those handling wagers on horse racing, to continue operating despite UIGEA.

A formal complaint to the WTO could mean the U.S. will be faced with millions of dollars in trade damages in the future.

It would not be the first time that a country has successfully fought the U.S. over online gaming laws through the WTO. Late last year the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, where a large number of the world's gaming servers are located, won the right to waive U.S. copyrights in films, television and music in an unusual ruling by the WTO.

Antigua and Barbuda filed a formal complaint against the U.S. over the loss of billions of dollars in its online gambling business since UIGEA was passed and the U.S. market was closed to offshore operators.

As of yet the Caribbean nation hasn't ignored any U.S. copyrights, and officials have mentioned several times they would prefer to settle the dispute amicably.

For its part, United States government representatives have said several times that the country never intended to allow online gambling services to be a part of its WTO commitments.

According to the Reuters article, an unidentified EU trade official said he expected the European Commission to decide by the end of the year whether to start a WTO case.

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