EDITORIAL: Time to Regulate Internet Gambling
8/29/07 - Newsday
Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny twin-island nation of 80,000 people in the Caribbean, is the
mouse that roared on Internet gambling. It could force the elephantine United States to
reconsider laws prohibiting online wagering with offshore casinos.
Antigua challenged that prohibition before the World Trade Organization and won -
twice. Congress should accept that reality and replace the ban with regulation designed
to ensure the financial integrity of gaming in cyberspace, to screen out minors and to
make sure that the United States gets its cut in taxes. Legislation introduced by Rep.
Barney Frank (D-Mass.) provides a good jumping-off point for debate in Congress.
Antigua is home to 32 online casino operations. It initiated a trade complaint in 2003,
claiming that the U.S. ban violates its rights as a member of the global free trade
community policed by the WTO. It won in 2004; again in 2005, after the United States
appealed; and the ruling was reaffirmed yet again this year. All that's left is for the WTO
to decide what damages to impose.
The organization's credibility is on the line. It can't risk the rap that it aggressively
enforces trade rules against small nations but timidly allows the world's economic
powerhouse to skate. The integrity of the United States is also at issue. This country
can't respect trade rules that benefit us and ignore those that don't without undermining
valuable free trade agreements.
Washington may be left with only two choices: Allow Americans to wager online with
offshore casinos or ban all Internet gambling - including popular pastimes like fantasy
sports leagues and off-track betting on horses, and maybe even the sale of lottery tickets
online. Antigua argued that by permitting some online wagering while making it illegal for
financial institutions to handle payments for Internet casinos abroad, the United States
impermissibly discriminates against cyber-casinos. Washington should respect the WTO
ruling, permit Internet casino gambling and do all it can to protect American consumers.