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Offshore Internet Gambling and the World Trade Organization: Is It Criminal Behavior or a Commodity?

NCJ Number
International Journal of Cyber Criminology Volume: 1 Issue: 1 Dated: January 2007 Pages: 119-136
Henry N. Pontell; Gilbert Geis; Gregory C. Brown
Date Published
January 2007
18 pages
This paper traces the development of the dispute between the United States and the Caribbean islands of Antigua and Barbuda before the World Trade Organization (WTO) regarding cross-border Internet gambling, and offers a perspective on the path Internet gambling should and will take.
The international dispute between Antigua and the United States has its roots in the criminal prosecution of Jay Cohen, one of the founders of the World Sports Enterprise (WSE), which was licensed in Antigua in 1997 and became the second largest employer on the island. WSE customers were required to transmit $300 before they were permitted to gamble, and the WSE took 10 percent off the top of each wager. In order to establish a criminal case, FBI agents in America placed bets at WSE by means of telephone calls from jurisdictions where Internet betting was illegal. Thereafter, Cohen was charged in a New York court with violation of the Wire Act, a statute that was enacted in 1961, well before Internet gambling. The original intent of the Wire Act was to keep organized crime syndicates from using communication networks to facilitate gambling, particularly on horse races. Antigua filed a charge against the United States with the WTO on March 13, 2003, claiming that it was being denied access to a legitimate outlet in violation of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, which mandates open transnational markets for "recreational, cultural, and sporting services." When negotiations between the parties reached an impasse, Antigua requested the formation of a Dispute Settlement Body Panel. The panel and a subsequent appeal of the panel decision held that the United States had acted in a manner inconsistent with its treaty obligations. This paper believes that a complete prohibitionist position on Internet gambling should and will shift to reluctant tolerance. 32 references