Jailing Poker Executives

Thought Provoking

With all the furore about the jailing of European poker executives in the US, it was very interesting to find an article in Slate about a case brought by Antigua against the US to the WTO.

… passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act of 2006. The act tries to bar credit-card payments to Internet gambling sites, and there has been much speculation about its wisdom and likely efficacy. What has been less noted, though, is that through this bill and a handful of similar missteps, the government has put itself in a position to be taught a sharp lesson about the nature of power in a globalized marketplace. Unless Congress and the Bush administration begin to pay a little more attention to how they handle Internet gambling, they could well end up creating an entirely avoidable headache for some very powerful constituents—holders of U.S. copyrights and patents—by punching a hole in the international web of agreements that protects them.

Further on in the article, it goes to ponder what options are open to Antigua if it wins the case and the US does not comply with the ruling.

The obvious question is what Antigua can do with a victory at the WTO. Retaliatory tariffs plainly aren’t particularly appealing for small country like Antigua, because they would certainly hurt more than they would help. But the plucky little island paradise does have some creative options at its disposal. If the United States remains recalcitrant, under the WTO rules, Antigua would potentially have the right to suspend its own compliance with the treaty that obligates it to respect the United States’ intellectual-property laws. That, one can well imagine, might get Washington’s attention.

It might be interesting to look at the medium to long term prospects of those gambling site’s stocks if the Antigua action was to pan out as the article suggests.