U.S., Germany, Sweden Involved in Online-Gambling Legal Issues
Several legislative events in recent days continue to define Internet-based gambling as a battleground between national interests and the market freedom inherent within international trade compacts.
The United States, as expected, allowed the World Trade Organization's deadline to pass without filing a final appeal in its ongoing trade dispute with Antigua & Barbuda over online gambling. This officially opens the door for Antigua to escalate other trade sanctions and penalties, and Antigua seems poised to waste little time in pursuing the matter. The International Herald Tribune quotes Antigua Ambassador John Ashe today from WTO home city Geneva, as follows: "Not only do we think that members should press claims for compensatory adjustments as a matter of economic self-interest, but we also believe it is important that the process is made as difficult as possible for the United States." It's an open invitation to all WTO members to pursue financial penalties and other sanctions against the United States.
Elsewhere, a ruling from a German court has resulted in the throwing out of a case between the German state of Bavaria and Austrian online bookmaker bWin. Late last year a Bavarian law was passed attempting to prevent bWin and other firms from marketing their services in competition with official state-supported outlets, but that ban was prevented from being put into effect by a higher court pending resolution of the case. Now, the entire case has been thrown out, again freeing bWin to accept Bavarian wagers.
A state-supported gambling business was also in the news in Sweden. Several published reports indicate that Sweden, already cited by the European Union for its failure to open up its market to outside interests, will not break down Svenska Spel, the state-run monopoly. Instead, in an end run reminiscent of UK Chancellor of the Exchequer (and soon to be Prime Minister) Gordon Brown, Sweden will officially end the monopoly but implement stringent fees and requirements intended to discourage any real competition to Svenska Spel. Whether this passes EU muster remains to be seen.