WASHINGTON Feb 20 A senior Democratic lawmaker
will push legislation this year to repeal a U.S. ban on
Internet gambling that has hurt trade ties with the European
Union, a congressional aide said.
"The bill introduction should happen in the next month," a
spokesman for House of Representatives Financial Services
Committee Chairman Barney Frank said.
On Thursday, Reuters reported the EU could file a complaint
about U.S. enforcement of the gambling ban at the World Trade
"Mr. Frank will bring back legislation to repeal the UIGEA
(Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act)," the spokesman
said, referring to a Republican-crafted bill passed in 2006
when the party controlled Congress and the White House.
Supporters of the ban argued offshore Internet gambling
websites take billions of dollars out the U.S. economy, damage
families and serve as vehicles for money laundering.
The law cost Europe's online gambling companies billions in
lost market value as they were forced to retreat from one of
their most lucrative markets. It barred businesses from
knowingly accepting payments in connection with unlawful
Internet gambling, including payments made through credit
cards, electronic fund transfers and checks.
Against Frank's advice, the Bush administration finalized
regulations late last year to implement the ban and gave
companies until Dec. 1 to comply.
Frank said the rules would burden the financial service
industry at a time of economic crisis.
Many publicly traded European companies, like PartyGaming
PRTY.L PRTY.L and 888.com (888.L), withdrew from the United
States after Congress passed the ban, but they face possible
criminal prosecution for activities before then.
The European Commission, acting on industry petition, began
a formal investigation in March into whether Washington was
singling out EU companies for enforcement actions while
allowing U.S. online firms to operate freely.
Sources familiar with that investigation told Reuters in
Brussels on Thursday they expect the investigators' report,
initially due last year, to recommend action at the WTO when it
is released next month.
Rather than move immediately to litigation, EU officials
would use the report as leverage to seek a negotiated solution
with the United States, they said.