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Is There Legal Gambling Online?

In recent years the legality of online gambling has been a hot topic of discussion. People want to know if there is legal gambling online - yes and no.

Recently, the New York times reported that the WTO (World Trade Organization) ruled than United States anti-gaming laws violated international trade agreements. Last year, the Caribbean country of Antigua filed a case with the WTO contending that U.S. restrictions on Internet gambling violated trade agreements the U.S. made as a member of the WTO. The U.S. had restricted U.S. residents from betting at off-shore online casinos. It is expected that the U.S. will file an appeal to the recent WTO decision and has 60 days to do so.

The nation of Antigua has been encouraging the communications and ecommerce industries as a way to revitalize the economy after a number of hurricanes devastated the island's tourism industry in the last 1990s. Encouraging and licensing legal gambling operations is one of their top priorities.

Antigua has called the U.S. law hypocritical because the U.S. wants to allow American land-based and Internet-based casinos to operate overseas. This has resulted in more criticism of the U.S. stance on free trade. It seems the U.S. is all for free trade when it suits the U.S.

The current situation of legal gambling in the United States is not clear cut. There are an estimated 1800 Internet gambling operations all based outside the United States. This has made it very difficult to enforce anti-gaming laws. The current law in U.S. states that it is not legal to offer sports betting via the Internet or to run a gambling operation prohibited by individual states. The laws of individual states varies widely with some making it illegal to bet and others like New York permit betting through the Internet.

Many online casinos are based in the Caribbean, the UK and Canada. Growth of the online gaming industry has been stunted due to the restriction of the use of credit cards by major banks for online gambling. In Antigua there are 30 online gambling operations, employing a thousand employees, down from two years ago when there was nearly 120 online gambling operations employing nearly 5000 people.

Authorities in the U.S. have even started to go after American media outlets that advertise online casinos, saying they are aiding and illegal enterprise. None of which has been tested in an American court to date.

Many industry analysts don't foresee the WTO decision to have any effect on internal American policies.

Legal gambling operations in the U.S. such as Las Vegas go largely unaffected by the legal battle, since their state licenses could be withdrawn if they open any sort of online gambling operation or land based operation that violates their licenses in any way.

If the U.S. loses its appeal to the WTO, Antigua is within its right to raise tariffs on American companies doing business there. This could have a dramatic effect on some American companies considering the very high percentage of goods and services imported from the U.S.

Still millions of Americans make bets at online casinos using credit cards or other online payment services betting everything from sporting events to casino games. Gambling proponents are hopeful the WTO decision will lead to legalized online gambling in the U.S.