U.S. loses in gambling case at WTO... again
April 02, 2007
Last Friday, the WTO ruled against the U.S. in a case brought by Antigua that various U.S. bans on Internet gambling are illegal under the WTO's General Agreement in Trade in Services (GATS). Whatever you think of Internet gambling or gambling in general, this is a pretty disturbing case that illustrates quite dramatically how the WTO isn't just about "trade" - and how in fact the WTO, in closed trade tribunals, has the authority to overturn our domestic laws that were arrived at through the democratic process.
Interestingly enough, but perhaps not surprisingly, the Web 2.0 techy sites are all over this issue, with articles popping up in Techdirt (via Slashdot) and Ars Technica, among others. Naturally, these sites tend to focus on U.S. gambling policy while missing the larger point of the fact that the WTO is dictating domestic law; for that angle, here's our press release from last Friday. We've also got a case summary and timeline (PDF) for those interested in the nuts and bolts.
My reading of the case is that if the U.S. laws at issue did not discriminate against foreigners, they would have been justified under one of the WTO exceptions. Doesn't the fact that the laws discriminate against foreigners make them "about trade"? Is a requirement of non-discrimination really that intrusive in relation to domestic policy-making?
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