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Internet Gambling Regulation Bill Now Has 26 Co-Sponsors

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Barney Frank's bill to legalize, regulate and license Internet gambling and online casinos is gaining the attention of more Congressmen.

Two more Congressional Representatives, James McGovern from Massachusetts' 3rd District, and Alcee L. Hastings from Florida's 23rd District have joined twenty-four other congressional representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 2046.

There is upward momentum, thanks to the public calling and writing to their State Representatives encouraging them to take a serious look at the issue.

With pending sanctions in the World Trade Organization against the United States on behalf of the European Union's 27 member states, (which includes the United Kingdom), Japan, Canada, China, China Taipei, Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica and Mexico, as well as a $3.44 billion annual compensatory claim by the twin island nation of Antigua & Barbuda, who started this action almost four years ago, pressure is on the United States to comply with WTO rulings.

In 1994, during the Uruguay round of trade talks at the WTO, participating countries had the opportunity to include or exclude services to be included in the general services agreement know as GATS.

While several countries found it necessary to identify and exclude online gambling from their services, the United States did not. Deliberations for this treaty were long, thorough and completely scrutinized by all members of the WTO.

After losing a case brought to the WTO by Antigua & Barbuda, and also losing its appeal, the U.S. has taken a different approach to make the problem it create go away.

The office of the USTR (United States Trade Representative), has said that it will seek to modify its GATS commitment with the unbelievable argument that it never intended to include cross border Internet gambling as part of the agreement.

To complicate things further, it has been revealed that early in this dispute, the United States tried to negotiate a settlement with Antigua & Barbuda to avoid such an outcome. Those talks proved futile, as negotiations were not truly seen as negotiations, but more as the Jolly Green Giant trying to cook and can the corn.

Antigua & Barbuda have been diligent in their efforts to try to find an amicable solution, claiming it has the right to engage and compete in this type of commerce.

The WTO agreed and it clearly stated in its final determination that the U.S. is engaging in protectionism by not allowing this. The WTO found that the U.S. does in fact allow this type of gambling for domestic providers and therefore cannot filter out legally licensed offshore operators from competing.

Antigua has said that if the U.S. does not comply and withdraws its commitment to the WTO, they will have no other recourse but to ask the WTO to withdraw its trade Commitments regarding Patents, Trademarks and Copyrights with the United States. This is legal, and the WTO will allow this type of sanction. This is a far-reaching breach of trust that the U.S. will have to explain to the corporate bigwigs that hold the rights to music, software, video and other products that generate billions of dollars for corporate America and fuel the economy.

If on the other hand, the U.S. simply says that it will pay Antigua to keep their stance and compensate the other countries for its modification of the GATS; this approach will cost the American people billions of dollars annually.

The only way this can be resolved equitably, and without harm to U.S. business and the American public, is to repeal the UIGEA, which was supported by special interest groups within the U.S., and included, without the ability for debate, in the last 15 minutes of the last day of session of the 109th Congress, in a totally unrelated National Security bill that was a must pass, by then Senator Bill Frist. There is some question as to the reality of Frist's assertion that this is necessary to "protect public morals," as Senator Frist has been know to accept money from land based casino giants for his campaigns.

Barney Frank's bill H.R. 2046 is not the cure all for this issue, but it is worthy of discussion, amendments, and then implementation.

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