Online Gambling Law May Be Bad Bet

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Rep. Barney Frank, a Massachusetts Democrat, wants Congress to repeal a law that effectively bans online gambling by making it illegal for credit card companies to process online gaming receipts. The World Trade Organization rejected the law, enacted in 2006.


Online gambling is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide, but no longer in the U.S. Last year, President Bush signed a law making it illegal for U.S. credit card companies and financial institutions to process online gambling transactions. These laws have been challenged by offshore gambling firms, and the World Trade Organization recently ruled that the U.S. law violates world trade rules.

NPR's Jack Speer reports.

JACK SPEER: Speaking in Brussels last week, Democratic lawmaker Barney Frank -the head of the House Financial Services Committee - said he'll introduce legislation over the next few weeks to overturn the U.S. ban restricting Internet gambling, though he admitted he may not have the votes that he needs.

Frank and others believe Congress must act, though. Last month, the WTO ruled the existing U.S. law unfairly targets offshore casinos. Mark Mendel is the attorney who brought the case on behalf of the Caribbean island nation of Antigua.

Mr. MARK MENDEL (Attorney): What we're really hoping at this stage is that the U.S. government will enter into meaningful negotiations with us, which they have, so far, kind of pretty much refused to do.

SPEER: Antigua is the smallest country to ever successfully bring a WTO case. Mendel says should the U.S. fail to change the law, the next step could be to seek trade sanctions.

Mr. MENDEL: We have won at the WTO. Like every other country, we are entitled to reap the benefits of our win, and we're going to insist on it.

SPEER: Washington hasn't yet said whether it will appeal the ruling.

Jack Speer, NPR News, Washington.

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