Online Gambling's American Underworld The cards are digital but the cash is real in online gambling. There's a fortune being won, and lost, on the Web, even though it's illegal in the United States.
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Online Gambling's American Underworld

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NEAL CONAN, host:

This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Gambling with offshore casino Web sites is illegal in this country, which doesn't stop people from doing it. Many Americans use sometimes-creative means to find a way to put a bet on a football game or play in an online poker tournament.

In 2006, an online gambling consultancy valued the American gambling market at almost $15 billion - that's just online. Today, we'll take you inside the virtual casino.

A little bit later in the program, a dispute over offshore online gambling leads to a David-versus-Goliath case at the World Trade Organization. So far, David is way ahead on points.

And we'll talk with the man asked to divide donations amongst the victims of the shootings at Virginia Tech.

But first, the virtual casino. How different is betting online from a Las Vegas or an Atlantic City casino? If you gamble online or if you have questions about how the virtual casino works, give us a call, 800-989-8255. E-mail: talk@npr.org. You can also join the conversation online on our blog at npr.org/blogofthenation.

Here to tell us more about online gambling is Will Deadwyler, an online poker player. He's with us here in studio 3A. Nice to have you in the program today.

Mr. WILLIAM DEADWYLER (Online Poker Player): Thank you.

CONAN: And if you're playing poker over the Internet, how do you know if somebody is bluffing?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Well, unlike a live casino where you could look in someone's eyes and maybe get a read or tell on them, online poker, you can't do that. You have to kind of make sense of the hand. If someone is being very aggressive and it looks likely they have a hand, then you would think they have a hand. But it could be possible that they're telling a story throughout the hand. In some action, they do it inconsistent, like, some bet is strange. And that can kind of give away the fact that maybe they aren't being consistent in their betting and they're full of it. They have a bluff.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Now, you are a child, as in terms of a poker player, of ESPN -the World Series of Poker - and the Internet.

Mr. DEADWYLER: Yes.

CONAN: You started watching it on TV and got interested.

Mr. DEADWYLER: Yeah. I went to GW, and freshman year, we're just watching poker on TV. And I said to my friend, this is stupid. Why would anyone watch poker on TV? And I started watching, and it was very interesting. I started playing in the dorm rooms, and then a few months later, I was playing online.

CONAN: And are you - would you now consider yourself a professional poker player?

Mr. DEADWYLER: No. I wouldn't consider myself a professional poker player. I don't make much as my friends, who are professional poker players. And I would like to get a job in the marketplace, working with people.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. And I wonder, you've obviously played in both venues now. Is it easier to win or play online or in a real cash game, sitting around the table?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Generally, in the live games, the players aren't as good. And it's easier to win there. But online, you can play up to six, ten tables at one time.

CONAN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. DEADWYLER: So you can effectively, you know, increase your win rate by six, ten times just by playing more tables. And it's just faster and quicker as well.

CONAN: And are there other tactics, other tricks you can use to play online? For example, is there a good time of day to play?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Absolutely. The worst time of day to play is the morning and the middle of the day. That's when all the regulars are playing and that's when the games are the toughest. The best time to play is around 8 p.m., 9 p.m., especially on weekends, when people who are partying come home and do some recreational gambling.

CONAN: And you hope that they've been partying heartily and their judgment may be impaired somewhat.

Mr. DEADWYLER: More or less.

CONAN: Is there etiquette in an online poker game? And we do watch these things on TV. And there's lots of trash talking amongst the players and that sort of thing. Is that kind of thing happen online?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Yeah, it's even worse online. It's the Internet and it's very anonymous, and people are just rude and say terrible things to each and constantly berate other players just like Internet chat rooms, except now people are competing for money, so it's even worse.

CONAN: So you better develop a thick hide if you're going to do this, too.

Mr. DEADWYLER: Absolutely.

CONAN: Now, who plays online? Is it mostly younger people like you?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Yeah. I would say the online crowd is probably 18- to 25-year olds; a lot of people in college, who just found out this thing and they're good at it and now, they're doing it for spending money or for serious money.

CONAN: Hmm.

Mr. DEADWYLER: A lot of these kids just have a lot of money and don't really have the value of the dollar that other people do. They go around doing ridiculous things and blowing money left and right. It's a kind of ridiculous thing to be in. I've had a lot of fun, but I think I want to move on to something more serious now.

CONAN: Mm-hmm. Now, we've been talking a bit about how gambling Web sites are run. We're going to be doing that in a minute. But I wonder, which site - how do you choose which site to play on?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Well, the different sites offer a variety of different schemes to entice you to play on their site. They'll offer you money to sign up, various things like this. But essentially, what comes down for me is security for my money. I want to know that the site I'm playing on isn't going to cut and run with my money, and that if I needed to get money offline, that isn't a big hassle. So what I look for is security in the online poker site.

CONAN: And how do you measure that?

Mr. DEADWYLER: Reputation largely. Different sites have backstories and problems - people who lose money and the site doesn't get it back, or there's a scam and someone loses a whole lot of money. And some sites have bad reputations and some sites have good reputations. And a good reputation is worth a lot of money in an online gambling industry.

CONAN: William Deadwyler, good luck.

Mr. DEADWYLER: Thank you.

CONAN: William Deadwyler, an online poker player, going on to better things -if his parents are listening. And he joined us today here in studio 3A. We really appreciate it.

Joining us now to tell us more about the virtual casino and how it all works is Sue Schneider. She is the publisher of Interactive Gaming News. She's with us today from the studios of our member station in St. Louis, KWMU. Nice to speak with you today.

Ms. SUE SCHNEIDER (Publisher, Interactive Gaming News): Nice to speak with you also.

CONAN: So based on what we just heard from William Deadwyler - just broaden that, if you will - how is a virtual casino different from taking a trip to Las Vegas to play at Harrods or Caesar's Palace?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, they are very similar. You know, I mean, a lot of the experience is the same, other than the fact that you're in your home and - or your office, or on your mobile phone doing that sort of thing. So there are those that say it's a nonsmoking environment, and there are those that in rural areas that don't have access. So, you know, it is a situation where it's different in many ways, but in, you know, the basic experience of the game and what you're trying to accomplish is very similar.

CONAN: And are the odds different in virtual casinos?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: It really varies, as it does in the terrestrial world. You know, there are percentage payouts that are required in some states and countries on the terrestrial world, and there are some licensing jurisdictions for online casinos to do the same thing. Most, you know, legitimate licensing jurisdictions really require testing of the software to make sure that it's fair and that they determine what those payout percentages are. And in many cases, they require auditing of that after the fact to make sure that it is in keeping with what they have established.

CONAN: And when you're talking about the governments involved, you're talking about the governments that host these casinos, which are often in Central America and the Caribbean.

Ms. SCHNEIDER: They started out that way. Really, most of the most popular licensing jurisdictions from the business operator's standpoint are now really in the European area. There - some of the channel islands - Gibraltar, Malta, a variety of jurisdictions like that that have really become the most popular. Still, most of the larger sports books operate out of the U.K. itself.

And when you're talking about, you know, other jurisdictions, like - most of the Australian states allow sports betting and that sort of thing. So there are a fair number of first-world countries that allow licensing of this and can you see a number of offshore jurisdictions. But, you know, at this point, many of them are really more in the European sector.

CONAN: We're talking with Sue Schneider. She's the publisher of Interactive Gaming News. If you have questions about how virtual casinos work, or if you gamble at one, give us a call, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

Andrew is on the line, Andrew calling us from Nashville, Tennessee.

ANDREW (Caller): Yeah. I'm actually wondering, like, to what degree are we seeing the first, like, free-market democratization via the Internet of any margin. I mean, is this - is gambling is the first market to come online that's going to be truly free market? That the Internet's going to sort of rule moot government's attempts to control market? I mean, what's next? Is the - are farms close down and find themselves no longer ruled by government jurisdiction? Does the Internet freeing one market after the another?

CONAN: I wonder what you think about that, Sue Schneider?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, I think to a certain extent that is the case because you have seen - unlike the - this is where the terrestrial world is different because they have bricks and mortar and they're geographically tied to a certain jurisdiction. It's fairly open and quite frankly, even the licensing jurisdictions are fairly competitive with each other as it relates to trying to bring in those casino or poker operators or sports book operators. So that is the case.

I don't say it's completely free market because of the activities that have happened in the U.S. in the last year where they've gotten very, very restricted. They've passed prohibition law and they have begun to arrest executives from some of these places. So that runs a little bit counter free market concept. But I think you're right in some ways. This is the first time that's happened.

CONAN: And we're going to be talking more about that World Trade Organization case against the United States - which the United States is losing - a little bit later. So stay with us, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you very much.

CONAN: All right. Bye-bye. We heard earlier from Will Deadwyler about his concerns over which of these offshore casinos have good reputations for paying promptly and which do not. How do you get around the regulations the fact that it is illegal in this country? How do you get your money back if you've won the money online?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, it's an interesting comment to say that it is illegal. If you ask any attorney general in any of the 50 states, I'm sure that they would say that because it's not expressly legal, it's illegal. But there're really only about eight states that have expressly made it illegal to operate and or and - even very fewer. I think only one or two of those have really criminalized it for the consumer.

So - even the ones that have criminalized it have many enforcement actions. There's one that I kind of think of out of all of this. So it's tough from that regard but, you know, he was right in that you have to do your homework. You want to look at the various message boards. You know, the reputation of these operators is very, very critical to them. They're not going to be doing things if they're in it for the long run.

CONAN: I understand that. But if I wanted to place a bet online, I don't just log on and give them my MasterCard number, do I?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, you can't do that in the U.S. at this point.

CONAN: Right. Where they meant - so how do we make this transaction?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, the movement of the money has changed dramatically in the last year. I mean, five years ago, 98 percent of the transactions of U.S. citizens that were trying to deposit into an account, most of that was done with Visa or MasterCard. That got - began to get restricted about three to four years ago, and as of a bill that was passed last year, almost all methods of transferring those payments is now supposed to be illegal. But there are still a variety of ways to do it for those companies that are taking U.S. play.

CONAN: Such as?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: They do - they might have a prepaid card, there might be people that are establishing offshore credit cards or offshore bank accounts. There are some of the operators that actually have their own payment transaction system, where they can pull money in and out of your, you know, bank account as you see fit and authorize and things like that. So it's gotten very, very restricted, but there are still ways for the dedicated player to do it.

CONAN: But broadly speaking, we're probably laundering money somewhere?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: In terms of what the operators are doing?

CONAN: Yeah.

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, I guess that's what a law enforcement officer would say for sure.

CONAN: I suspect they would.

Ms. SCHNEIDER: I mean, these are - you know, these are businesses that in many cases are in it for a long haul and, you know, those are legitimate businesses. They've been part of the London Stock Exchange in many cases and things like that. So…

CONAN: You're still laundering money from law enforcements but if you, in any case…

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Right. Exactly.

CONAN: …we're looking at the online gambling industry. Who's doing it and how? Your calls: 800-989-8255, e-mail: talk@npr.org. And coming up, why all of this is now a major headache for the United States at the World Trade Organization.

Stay with us. I'm Neal Conan. It's the TALK OF THE NATION from NPR News.

(Soundbite of music)

CONAN: This is TALK OF THE NATION. I'm Neal Conan in Washington.

Thanks in part to the anonymity of the Web, people can do all sorts of things online, including lots of gambling. Yes, online poker is illegal in the United States, and yes, it causes real problems for some people. But it's an industry worth billions of dollars and now has the U.S. in a showdown with the WTO. We'll talk about that in a moment.

But let's continue our look inside - the inside the virtual casino. Sue Schneider is with us. She's the publisher of Interactive Gaming News, which covers online gambling. If you'd like to join the conversation, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org.

And let's turn to Bob. Bob's with us from Glendale in Arizona.

BOB (Caller): Hi.

CONAN: Hi.

BOB: I'm enjoying the show a lot, Neal.

CONAN: Thanks.

BOB: And I find the people you're interviewing, they're very accurate. They know what they're talking about.

CONAN: Well, that's nice, too.

BOB: Yes, (unintelligible). I had an opportunity several years ago before the popularity of the poker casino on the Internet. I played a casino actually based in Israel, I find out. And I had an incredibly good streak of luck playing some high-stake black jack. And at the end, I just asked for a cash-out of $12,000. The mandatory 48-hour period went by - two days to get the checks. That was in my mailbox. I took it. It was drama. It was a certified check. I went to my BMA, and it was in my account. That was a very pleasant experience.

CONAN: I bet it was. But this was, I take it, some years ago.

BOB: It's about five years ago, four or five years ago. It wasn't really that long ago. These people were - I think pioneering in that at the time. And it was really - and I played it before and so I had conducted transaction and unfortunately - or more of the norm, you don't cash out as often as you buy in.

CONAN: I suspect that may be the case for a lot of people, Bob. And congratulations.

BOB: Thank you so much.

CONAN: Bye-bye. And Sue Schneider, the ease of the transaction that he described, so typical of the situation five years ago?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Yes, it was then. It's a little tougher now, again, because of all the restrictions. But yeah, that's how it used to work.

CONAN: Let's talk with Bob(ph), Bob's with us from Oakland, California.

BOB (Caller): Yeah. Hi.

CONAN: Hi, Bob. Go ahead. Hello? And Bob must have a problem with his phone. We apologize for that. Let's turn instead to Doug, Doug's with us from Tallahassee in Florida.

DOUG (Caller): Hi, you guys. I used to play online for about three years, as most stakes. I made a living at it, playing several tables a day about $100 a day. But it seemed as though the hand drew fairly loose and I tried tracking the hands and doing research on the algorithms.

And I couldn't make a question on my mind go away, and I think I realized the difference between live play and online play that is very significant is that in a live deck, the cards are static. But in algorithm, pseudonumber random number generator, they're floating around and they usually - the person who's in the money lead or chip lead will get a hand for a bad beat against somebody, and it's to expedite play because this is how they make their money by quick turnover on every game. And I'll take my answer off the air off the phone. Thank you.

CONAN: Okay. Sue Schneider, is he correct in his suspicions?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Well, you know, again, it really kind of depends. All of the issues related to software and how they're set up is based on jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction and the rules that are there, so it really depends on the site and where that site was located and regulated.

CONAN: All right. Let's see if we can get - this is John, John's on the air with us from Grand Rapids in Michigan. John? You have to turn your radio down.

JOHN (Caller): Yeah. Yes.

CONAN: Go ahead. You're on the air, John.

JOHN: Oh, thank you.

CONAN: You have to turn the radio down, please.

JOHN: Okay. Thank you. My question is why can't these operations be regulated and taxed like any of the hundreds of Indian casinos around the country?

CONAN: That is a question - Sue Schneider, do you have an opinion on that?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: Sure. The answer is it can be. It is in 88 countries around the world, including, as I mentioned, U.K., Australia. Most of the European countries allow it for their own residents…

JOHN: Well, what's wrong - this problem with this?

Ms. SCHNEIDER: You'd have to ask your congressman and I'd encourage you to do that. You know, I think it's really trying to save us for ourselves more than anything else because it can be regulated and taxed. So you actually have an industry that cries out for that which is pretty rare.

JOHN: Mm-hmm.

CONAN: John, thanks very much for the call.

JOHN: Okay. Thank you.

CONAN: And we'd like to thank Sue Schneider for her time today.

Ms. SCHNEIDER: You're welcome.

CONAN: Sue Schneider is the publisher of Interactive Gaming News and she joined us today from the studios of our member station in St. Louis, KWMU. And as we just heard - and I think it comes as no surprise - there are certain circumstances under which the United States allows online gambling and certain situations where it chooses not to. And this has become an issue before the World Trade Organization.

The smaller Caribbean country of Antigua, home to, excuse me, Antigua - home to several online casinos - sued the United States over the laws that prohibit Americans from gambling online, and Antigua one.

Attorney Mark Mendel represents Antigua before the WTO. He joins us today by phone from his office in El Paso, Texas. And it's nice to have you on the program today.

Mr. MARK MENDEL (Lawyer Representative of Antigua, World Trade Organization): Well, thank you very much.

CONAN: So what is Antigua's case against the U.S. ban on online gambling?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, basically, we asserted that by prohibiting the provision of these services from Antigua that the U.S. was violating its treaty obligations under the WTO agreements. And to - much to everybody's surprise, I guess, we brought the case against the United States and prevailed.

CONAN: And this has prevailed twice - there's been an appeal.

Mr. MENDEL: Yes. We won in the beginning and then they appealed it and we won on the appeal. And then, they - about a year later - they said that they have come into compliance with the decision, which of course, we disputed. And so we had to bring that back to the WTO and we prevailed at that time as well.

CONAN: So at the moment, what's under consideration?

Mr. MENDEL: Well at the moment, we are in the process of starting this procedure that will allow Antigua to, in essence, retaliate through special tariffs or special charges against the United States, against the U.S. industry until such time as the U.S. comes into compliance with its obligation.

CONAN: Retaliate how?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, we are asserting that because Antigua has such, you know, such limited trade itself. For example - I think of the last year for which there's data - all Antiguan trade to America amounted to about $3 million, and it's very difficult to, you know, to retaliate when your trade level is that low.

Also, if, you know, bigger countries would have the opportunity to raise tariffs on American goods to, you know, to generate revenue that way. But unfortunately, Antigua, almost 60 percent of everything that comes on to the island is imported from America. So by raising tariffs, all we would is make things harder on our citizens…

CONAN: And I understand the offshore gambling industry, catering largely to an American market, is a big business in Antigua.

Mr. MENDEL: Yeah, it's a huge business. It's, you know, a multi-billion dollar business.

CONAN: So how is Antigua going to get - make itself whole after the depredations of U.S. laws?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, what we're - our number one strategy is to get the United States to negotiate, and that has to be the most important thing that people consider. I mean, we're looking for a fair, negotiated solution here and we think that, you know, we think that one is available.

CONAN: But in the meantime, what Antigua is asking for is to be able to break copyright protection on things like Microsoft, for example.

Mr. MENDEL: Well, it wouldn't be, you know, it wouldn't be breaking property right protection because we would have the authority of the WTO to do it.

CONAN: So you'd be legal but effectively, Microsoft would be in trouble, or other agencies, other people who distribute, what, software programs, movies of videos?

Mr. MENDEL: Yes, all kinds of things and effectively, we're looking to waive those kinds of intellectual property rights for goods and services that we can sell from Antigua.

CONAN: And one might say that this is - this seems a little bit out of proportion. But I guess your point is you're trying to get the United States to negotiate on this?

Mr. MENDEL: Sure. And, you know, people have to understand that by failing to negotiate with Antigua - and I mean failing in any way to negotiate with Antigua - it's not like they've put forth a bunch of proposals and we have summarily rejected them. We have put forth proposals and have got nothing in response. So what - for failing to negotiate with us, they're, in essence, putting at risk completely innocent, you know, industry groups in America just, really, to protect their domestic gambling business.

CONAN: And when you went before the WTO and the United States made the argument, look, online gambling is illegal in the United States. We're allowed to pass laws to restrict this as other countries pass laws, for example, no one would argue that a liquor manufacturer has the right to distribute alcohol in Saudi Arabia.

Mr. MENDEL: That's right except that the U.S. is the biggest consumer and the biggest exporter of gambling services in the world. And, you know, gambling is legal in 48 of the 50 states. It's just a huge multi-billion dollar industry in America, so it's not quite like Saudi Arabia.

CONAN: So in other words, if the federal government passed a law, says no gambling at all, would it be no gambling at all or it's just no online gambling?

Mr. MENDEL: What they could do if they don't want to come into compliance with the decision by allowing us some kind of market access - and again, I'm assuming that there's no negotiations here - what they could do is outlaw all remote gambling within, you know, within America, and that would bring them into compliance.

CONAN: And would that - would you have a case if it were just Indian casinos, for example. Would they be a special case?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, if there is - you know, the U.S. argument was that they prohibited all remote gambling in the country. They said the remote gambling is so bad and it's so harmful that it must be prohibited. So to the extent that they allow any remote gambling is contradictory, and therefore they cannot maintain the restriction against foreign company.

CONAN: And what online remote gambling did you cite as examples of U.S., I guess, you would say hypocrisy on this?

Mr. MENDEL: Yeah, well, there's the obvious one, the horse race gambling. You know, if you would look at some of the horse race sites, they're identical to the sites that Antigua offers in many ways. There's also the ability to purchase lottery tickets on the phone, which is considered remote gambling. There's remote gambling on dog racing.

There's - one thing that's really overlooked by a lot of people and that is that under U.S. law currently, it is not really illegal to do remote gambling. What is illegal is for remote gambling to cross the state line. And this is something that Nevada has already figured out. And Nevada has a wholly intrastate online gambling law that allows casinos to offer those services to anybody who's physically present in Nevada.

Every state and union could do that. Californiapoker.com - you know, every single state could have really almost unregulated Internet gambling as long as it occurred wholly within their borders.

CONAN: And from the World Trade Organization's point of view, that doesn't make a whit's worth of difference as long as it's allowed. Antigua should be able to get into that market, too.

Mr. MENDEL: Exactly. Because it's, you know, it's not the distance. It's the remoteness. So that if remote gambling is bad from Antigua, remote gambling should be just as bad if the server is located, you know, on the other side of the city.

CONAN: We're talking with Mark Mendel, lawyer who represents Antigua before the World Trade Organization and is thus far winning his case against the United States. If you'd like to join us, 800-989-8255. E-mail is talk@npr.org. And you're listening to TALK OF THE NATION, which is coming to you from NPR News.

And I have to ask you, Mark Mendel, how does a lawyer from El Paso end up representing Antigua before the World Trade Organization?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, it's a long, long story but I kind of - I did developed the case on my own in response to somebody kind of posing rhetorical question to me. And I researched the case, I developed it and I brought it to the Antiguan government and that convinced them to hire me to do it.

CONAN: And are you being paid or you're on a contingency?

Mr. MENDEL: Oh, sure. Yes, I'm being paid.

CONAN: Oh, good for you.

Mr. MENDEL: Yeah. Because it's - you know, I mean, I'm on my fifth year now, you know, so. And I'm just - you know, I just have a small firm, so if I wasn't being paid, I'd be in big trouble.

CONAN: Do you understand the difficulties the United States government is going to have in responding to this? Politically, I don't think Congress wants to vote to approve offshore gambling.

Mr. MENDEL: Well, you know, we understand the political difficulties and we always have. And that's why we've always thought that, you know, that a negotiated solution is the best way to go. But we have also done quite a bit of kind of outreached to people who are on Capitol Hill as well. And from our contacts, you know, I'm not so sure that Congress is really so opposed to it. I think, you know, I think it's more a perception than reality so that, you know - like, for instance, the bill that was introduced by Barney Frank.

CONAN: A Democrat of Massachusetts of the United States House of Representatives, who - and he's just one of several, I think, all Democrats who've introduced legislation that would, in various forms, allow online gambling.

Mr. MENDEL: Right.

CONAN: Yeah. You understand also the position that the World Trade Organization is in. Antigua is, I'm sure, a valued and important member of the WTO. The United States is its most valued and largest member.

Mr. MENDEL: Well, that's true except - I mean, one of the reasons why we brought the case was that the WTO is almost unique among international institutions in that it is very much respected by its members. And the dispute resolution process has worked fantastically. I think it is by, you know, by far, the most successful dispute resolution body in international law. And so, because of that, they have a good track record of kind of offering a level playing field, and the smallest guy is supposed to get the same amount of respect as the biggest. And, you know, I think that in general, it's true.

CONAN: What's the next step here?

Mr. MENDEL: Well, we are about to go through this procedure here to get the authorization to, you know, to impose these sanctions until such time as the U.S. complies and we think that we'll have a decision in that regard by the end of the year.

CONAN: And impose those sanctions if the WTO agrees - there's nothing the U.S government can do about it.

Mr. MENDEL: No, they really can't.

CONAN: Oh.

Mr. MENDEL: And the U.S. government has bought into this system and they didn't, for example, they didn't say, well, this is a, you know, like they've done with the International Court of Justice in some respects, they didn't say we don't respect this forum. This is something that we don't…

CONAN: Yeah. Well, they didn't say the United States is not a member of the World Court.

Mr. MENDEL: Yeah and there are reasons for that, but they're a member of this and they respect the system and have used it a lot themselves. So, you know, they're kind of in a difficult situation here where they have bought into this system that now is, you know, now is presenting them with some difficulties on a tough case.

CONAN: And I wonder which U.S. government agency - which department do you deal with this, is it the State Department or the Justice Department?

Mr. MENDEL: No, there's something called the Office of the United States Trade Representative, USTR, and they're the people who are given the responsibility of dealing with the WTO and a bunch of other trade issues. So that's who we've been working with for these years.

CONAN: Mark Mendel, thanks very much for your time. We appreciate it.

Mr. MENDEL: All right. Thank you.

CONAN: Mark Mendel, the lawyer who represents Antigua before the World Trade Organization. He joined us today by phone from his office in El Paso, Texas.

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