Last March, the European Commission launched an intensive investigation into the US laws governing internet gambling. The complaint, brought by a coalition of European remote gambling concerns, alleged that the US authorities targeted European businesses while ignoring domestic remote gambling concerns. They accused the US of discriminatory trade practices in violation of internation trade obligations.

The UIGEA was passed in 2006 and most of the European gambling concerns immediately pulled their services from the US market. This didn’t stop the US from aggressively pursuing and prosecuting European gambling executives. Chairman Peter Dicks of Sportingbet was arrested and jailed in New York and David Carruthers of Betonsports Plc. Was arrested in Texas.

The US Justice Dept. also issued subpoenas to various investment banks that had advised some of the companies in question in an attempt to get further records and proof of supposed wrongdoing.

At least one executive, Anurag Dikshit of PartyGaming, has pled guilty to illegal internet gambling and paid a fine of $300 million dollars to the US government – although PartyGaming was one of the first gambling concerns to pull out of the US market when the UIGEA was passed.

The EU investigation “found that U.S. Laws on remote gambling and their enforcement against EU companies constitute an obstacle to trade that is inconsistent with WTO rules,” said the Commission in statement issued March 26. “The provisional conclusions of the report imply that WTO proceedings against U.S. measures would be justified.”

“The proceedings [prosecutions] are continuing despite the withdrawal of European companies from the U.S. market in 2006 following changes in the U.S. regulatory framework. The report comes to the conclusion that these proceedings are legally not justified and discriminatory.”

“The report finds that U.S. laws on remote gambling and their enforcement against EU companies constitute a barrier to market access on EU economic interests.”

“Furthermore, EU companies are discriminated against: U.S. companies are allowed to freely operate online gambling on horse racing in the U.S., while European companies and individuals cannot and even face legal action.”

“It is for the US to decide how best to regulate internet gambling in its market, but this must be done in a way that fully respects WTO obligations. I am hopeful that we can find a swift, negotiated solution to this issue,” said the EU trade commissioner, Lady Ashton.

That the Commission is willing to discuss and negotiate an equitable solution is in deference to the change in administration with the election of Barack Obama. Should this not prove feasible, the Commission acknowledged the possibility of further proceedings under the WTO.