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U.S Has Until April to Fix Gambling Ban

A World Trade Organization arbitrator gave the United States until April 3 to end discrimination against foreign online betting companies after a complaint by the Caribbean island of Antigua, a small nation that has invested heavily in the electronic gambling industry to boost its economy and job opportunities.

WTO judges ruled April 7 that a U.S. ban, in the interests of "public morals," can stand only as long as the prohibitions don't discriminate against foreign companies. The U.S. has said it can comply with WTO rules by clarifying its restrictions, without opening itself to foreign Internet gambling.

A WTO dispute panel and an appeals body both found largely in favor of Antigua's complaint over the ban, which has kept U.S. banks and major Internet search engines from doing business with gambling firms on the island.

Antiguan officials say they are confident the United States will conform, but trade diplomats say Antigua could do little if the legislative changes were not made on time, or at all, other than press the case further within the WTO.

"The United States has already announced its intention to comply with the WTO findings," the USTR's Moorjani said.

"USTR will not ask Congress to weaken U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling. We had asked for 15 months to comply as it was our reasonable and realistic estimate of the necessary amount of time. But we are studying the arbitrator's award and will do our utmost to comply," she added.


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