- Your story says nothing about how the UIGEA was passed by attaching it to an unrelated port security bill with exemptions for lotteries, horse racing, and fantasy sports games. The main author Bob Goodlatte has tried to hide his donations from the horse racing industry by setting up a pac to conceal his receipt of thousands of dollars. Meanwhile U.S. citizens are denied the right to do as they wish online with their own money. I don't want to be "protected" from internet gambling and neither do over 800,000 people who have joined the poker players alliance to protest this idiotic law. Follow the money and you will find why this law was passed. The best thing we could do was practice what we preach. Repeal this stupid law and regulate online gaming like they do in Canada and The U.K. . We say we are for free trade but we didn't like losing U.S. dollars to foreigners. This is not the American Way and I hope that if nothing else this ruling by the WTO will bring this issue out into the open and allow for discussion. Prohibition of Internet Gambling will not work. If the U.S. government is really for "protecting" American consumers they will license and regulate online casinos and poker rooms just like they do casinos and poker rooms all over the United States (including foreign owned). The technology is already available to prevent minors and problem gamblers from playing but it isn't being used because we are banning instead of regulating the online gaming industry. This has allowed unregulated casinos to fill the void left when publicly traded companies left the U.S. Market from fear of prosecution under this law. By the way, U.S. corporations like Yahoo! already have online poker rooms in the U.K. where they are licensed and regulated and the dollars are returning to the good ol USA. What is really being protected? I don't want the U.S. copyrights violated but maybe we should have thought about it before we passed the UIGEA instead of crying about it when we were called on it by the world community. Our UIGEA law devestated Antigua and hit the U.K. stockmarket hard when we tried to "protect" not U.S. consumers, but U.S. corporations Like Harrahs, MGM and others. I hope that the U.S. Congress will come to their senses before Antigua acts on their right to retaliate but if not it won't bother me one bit!
(Posted on January 6, 2008, 3:26 am Todd Coffman)
- I understand from your opinion piece that you are an attorney. As such, it would benefit you greatly if you were to understand the facts of the case that brought about the ruling by the WTO Arbitration panel, and how they did everything within the scope of their authority to minimize the penalty on the U.S.
First, let me remind you that the U.S. is the single largest complainer at the WTO when they feel other countries may be violating previously agreed to trade deals. We have taken more countries to the WTO to complain and seek sanctions or other remedies to get what we wanted than any other.
The case you cite is not one that began after Congress enacted the UIGEA, it pre-dates that law, and for years, Antigua & Barbuda have been trying to negotiate in good faith with the U.S. to come to a resolution that would be agreeable to both parties. During this period of time, the U.S. has outright refused to discuss this issue. After a long, drawn out trial at the WTO, which the U.S. lost, as well as all of its appeals, the U.S. took the unusual step of withdrawing its commitment in this trade in service which has been a longstanding treaty, saying it never intended to offer gaming.
This position by the U.S. is most difficult to believe as there was much time and effort spent by our most educated and talented diplomats involved in the process. Further, making such a statement seems like fantasy when the fact that many smaller, less educated, less represented countries did in fact restrict trade in this area in 1994. The U.S. could have at that time also.
The decision you so angrily write about was not one that came with little thought and is not a precedent setting decision. Ecuador was awarded a similar sanction over a banana dispute with a European country.
After finding guilt by the U.S., a mandate was given to the Arbitration Panel to decide on the level of sanctions, as well as the method of those sanctions. The mandate was simple; it found the U.S. out of compliance with its treaty obligations and demanded it conform. During the past several months, the Arbitration Panel was to decide between the $3.44 billion annually that Antigua was claiming, and the $500,000 the U.S. wanted to pay.
In that there is no balance of trade between the two countries, an alternate means of collecting this judgment was needed. Antigua & Barbuda suggested the relaxing of its commitments regarding U.S. Intellectual Property rights was a way to accomplish this, never intending to actually do so, rather, hoping to have the U.S. finally come to the table for discussion.
The WTO panel was to decide on an amount that would be equitable and a means for that to be paid, until and unless the U.S. comes into compliance. Instead, it decided to reduce the scope of the mandate to include only monetary losses that may have come from Internet gambling on Horse-racing, which is currently legal in the U.S. This amount came to a mere $21 million annually. Easily this is a number that will not force the U.S. to come into compliance. That bad part of this decision is that the penalty will harm business' that are not involved in this type of trade.
The U.S. can avoid any 'piracy issues' simply by living up to its treaties with the rest of the world, and stop being protectionist to those that donate to the politicians pockets.
If you care to discuss this issue further, please feel free to write back. I am very well versed on the issue since its inception and am aware of all the problems it has caused, and I am sure if Antigua decides to follow through on this award, that it will be much more costly to the U.S. in terms of jobs, domestic business, loss of tax revenue, unemployment, and possibly a recession, and an out of control free-for-all on not only IP Copyrights and Trademarks, but also on other industries
(Posted on January 4, 2008, 6:56 pm Craig)