The US Department of Justice has repeatedly stated that all forms of online gambling are illegal, yet continues to enforce this view only in connection with non-US businesses. In October 2006, the US Congress passed a new law (the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, or UIGEA) which effectively criminalised online gaming provided by foreign operators. The UIGEA forced many leading EU online gambling companies out of the lucrative US market, despite a US commitment under the WTO treaties offering access to its domestic gambling market. The stock market-listed EU companies collectively lost billions in market value overnight when the UIGEA took effect, whilst US online gaming companies continued to operate unperturbed.
Over and above the substantial monetary losses suffered by their forced withdrawal from the American market, non-US companies have had to contend with actual or threatened prosecutions, forfeitures and other enforcement actions by US prosecutorial authorities under pre-UIGEA penal laws. As a result, the RGA asked the EU in March 2008 to investigate the retroactive and discriminatory enforcement regime as an illegal barrier to trade for EU businesses. This complaint was lodged under the EU Trade Barriers Regulation (TBR), the trade policy tool that allows EU companies to formally request the Commission to start an investigation into trade barriers in third countries. The Commission had to examine whether there was a trade obstacle which was incompatible with the WTO obligations of the relevant third country, whether it had a negative economic impact on European companies and whether action against these barriers would be in the interest of the EU.
For more infomation on the results of the RGA TBR complaint click here