Thursday, November 11, 2004Contact: Maurits Bruggink
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WTO ruling on online gaming

On 10 November, a WTO panel published its long awaited ruling in the dispute between the US and Antigua and Barbuda about the restrictions to the provision of online gaming services in the US. The report can be found at

The ruling condemns the US, as expected, because the legal restrictions it has imposed on online gaming are not conform to its commitments under the WTO (more precisely the General Agreement on Trade in Services - GATS). The Panel said that under these commitments, online gambling services offered by off shore operators should have the same conditions as existing (mainly terrestrial) gambling services.

The Panel recognizes the sensitivity gambling and betting services, and even goes as far as to suggest that the US probably made its WTO commitments ‘inadvertently’. However, the Panel emphasized that it has to interpret the rules and not the parties’ intentions.

Although the US appeared to have made a commitment under GATS to free gambling services, the Panel did emphasize that GATS does give each WTO member the right to regulate, including a right to prohibit, gambling and betting activities.

The US strongly rejected the ruling and announed to appeal it.

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