US in the News, But Not in the GamePublished September 24, 2007 by OCR Editor
The US policy that bans online gambling is being contested on several fronts. Yet the industry remains quiet and the ban intact.
While all recent developments in the online gambling industry have focused on the United Kingdom - be it the Gambling act taking force on September 1 or the much publicized study about the state of the (gambling) nation and the responses it drew - it is now turn for the United States to take over the news headlines.
The issue seems to be back on the table. If not literally on the table, then on Capitol Hill, in court and on peoples' mind, no doubt. These developments are interesting and even dramatic. The issues are material and the potential consequences substantial. And yet, the endgame is status quo. How come?
It was reported this week that American companies MasterCard and Visa have lobbied Congress and the federal government over the first half of the year and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in doing so. Their stake in a removal of the gambling ban is considerable. Their investment, though, in sums of money and in its public profile, somewhat minor, however.
More interesting perhaps, at least in presenting some kind of timeframe, is the US battle against the World Trade Organization ruling that sides with the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda over the ban. The US Department of Justice has been trying to protect its legislation restricting Americans from gambling online, but its response seems not to be convincing, not to the WTO court and certainly not to its challengers in the Caribbean and in the European Union.
This spells out to an American offer to compensate the EU and other countries for pulling out from the free online gambling market. The compensation package is being evaluated and the EU is expected to submit its official response in a month, on October 22.
What offer can equal the estimated $4 billion that European companies are losing around the world for the loss of the American market? Add to that the $3.4 billion that Antigua claims it loses every year due to the ban and the US is in a tight spot. Needless to mention that the US disputes the figures.
What the US will be willing to pay, in what form, and what the world will settle for is anybody's guess. What Rep. Barney Frank's role will be in bridging the gap between the sides and what the big industries and the conservative politicians have to say in response too is a wild card. With all this going on, the only thing that remains quiet is the US gambling market.