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RGA applauds EU delegation in U.S.
A team of European Union investigators is in Washington D.C. this week to look into whether the U.S. Department of Justice breaches international treaties by enforcing online gambling laws against EU businesses and individuals.
The team arrived in Washington Monday and will meet with the U.S. Trade Representative, Department of Justice and members of Congress who have relevant committee responsibility or who have demonstrated an interest in seeing the executive branch account for its online gambling policies and decision making.
"We have no doubt that U.S. prosecutorial policy as regards E.U. online gaming operators is a clear breach of its WTO commitments and we applaud the E.U. trade office for taking seriously the concerns of the online gaming industry in Europe," said Clive Hawkswood, Remote Gambling Association chief executive.
"The E.U. industry has had to accept the huge losses caused by the U.S. repudiation of its WTO commitments. What can't be accepted is that companies and individuals, who respected Congress in 2006 and ceased taking U.S. business, should still be under the threat of criminal enforcement action today for conducting trade that they were entitled to do under the terms of the WTO agreements - that simply cannot be right."
Lode Van Den Hende of Herbert Smith law firm, speaking for RGA on this matter, said that it is one thing to change the rules going forward, but they can't be changed for the past or the whole system collapses.
"The EU is currently considering all options available to it for use if needed, including implementing blocking-legislation which would prevent any EU entity cooperating with U.S. authorities in seeking enforcement in Europe, whether it be extradition, asset-seizure or otherwise," Van Den Hende said.
The E.U. investigating team is being led by Jean-Francois Brakeland, head of the European Commission's dispute settlement office. He and his team will seek answers from the United States before making decisions on how best to protect the European Union's interests.
According to the RGA, the options it could consider include implementing blocking legislation to prevent U.S. enforcement in Europe; opening World Trade Organization proceedings based on the conflict between the United States enforcing its laws or following through on international commitments; and seeking sanctions against the United States.
The WTO has already ruled in a case brought against the United States by Antigua and Barbuda that the United States is violating its trade agreements with its current online gambling ban. As a result, the United States has decided to pull online gambling out of its WTO commitments.
The RGA pointed out that even if the United States is successful in changing its commitments, the effort would only affect future trade rather than past activity.
"The EU does not accept that it is legitimate for the U.S. to further renege on its trade commitments by continuing to take retrospective and discriminatory enforcement action, especially against EU entities that have long since ceased their acceptance of any U.S. business," said the RGA.
Dr. Joseph Weiler, an international trade expert and professor at NYU School of Law, said this is a hugely significant piece of the fact-finding mission whose existence reflects a major point of tension between the United States and Europe over the integrity of international trade commitments.
"It is a shame that the EU has to go this far to seek a solution to such an unnecessary and avoidable dispute that, if not solved, will have wide-reaching consequences for the U.S. and the systems it benefits from and needs to maintain," Weiler said.
Nao Matsukata, a trade advisor in Washington and former senior trade policy official, told the RGA that the United States could find itself in a difficult political situation with the European Union. The current situation could leak into other areas of the transatlantic relationship.
"The current course of U.S. action may also expose U.S. business to retaliatory measure in other countries if more WTO members adopt these types of policies, and even now we are seeing consequences," Matsukata said.
"Greater congressional oversight of trade policy is probably inevitable to ensure that executive branch agencies maintain the proper regard for the nation's treaty commitments and priority interests," he said.
The RGA is an organization that represents many of the world's largest licensed and stock market-listed remote gambling companies such as PartyGaming, which operates PartyPoker; 888, owner of Pacific Poker; Betfair; Paddy Power and more.
The RGA provides the industry with a single voice for its members on online gambling issues of importance to regulators, legislators and other key decision makers around the world.