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iMEGA Founder Not Welcome in Barcelona for Online Gambling Conference

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Sep/19/2008
Joe Brennan, Jr

While the European Union was meeting with members of Congress regarding an online gambling trade dispute at a time when the US is experiencing its worst economic crisis since the Depression, Gambling911.com can reveal that trade representatives from the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association were denied access to the European I-Gaming Congress and Expo being held next week in Barcelona.

Eventually organizers caved in but ended up allowing only one representative, founder Joe Brennan Jr., at double the charge of representatives attending from European nations.

iMEGA was also denied a speaking engagement.

EU members did meet with representatives from Congress and reportedly only made matters worse "by antagonizing" the US Government further.

The meeting did "little to ease tensions, and it is now very likely that the United States will soon face a formal World Trade Organization complaint, which could result in many millions of dollars in trade damages being assessed."

The US Government is also taking notice of iMEGA's recent addition to their team, Stephen A. Saltzburg, professor of law at George Washington University, and one of Washington DC's most accomplished attorneys. Mr. Saltzburg has joined iMEGA's legal team, as we prepare to challenge the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in the US 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals.

Saltzburg is a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, and chairman of the ABA Criminal Justice Section from 2007 to 2008.

The US Government is said to be reviewing its strategy in regards to the iMEGA matter, which - unlike what the EU is trying to accomplish - is not attempting to demand millions of dollars in damages. iMEGA is simply trying to repeal a law that in many ways burdens the US Justice Department in much the same way it burdens the nation's banks.

"We have no doubt that U.S. prosecutorial policy as regards E.U. online gaming operators is a clear breach of its WTO commitments and we applaud the E.U. trade office for taking seriously the concerns of the online gaming industry in Europe," said Clive Hawkswood, the Chief Executive of the Remote Gambling Association (RGA.)

"The E.U. industry has had to accept the huge losses caused by the U.S. repudiation of its WTO commitments. What can't be accepted is that companies and individuals, who respected Congress in 2006 and ceased taking U.S. business, should still be under the threat of criminal enforcement action today for conducting trade that they were entitled to do under the terms of the WTO agreements -- that simply cannot be right."

Hawkswood's stinging comments come at a time when the US Government is forced to take part in the biggest bailout in United States history, an effort to buy up bad mortgage debt from Wall Street firms. The cost of the program could run into the hundreds of billions of dollars.  None of that money was being distributed to European firms. 

In broad terms, Paulson said the plan could involve hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars so the government can buy up the bad mortgages and other illiquid assets clogging up the financial system. The program, he said, would have to be "big enough to make a real difference" and while he knew it put a lot of taxpayer money at risk, he said this plan was the only option.  European online gambling businesses were not being taxed prior to their voluntary pullout from the US market. 

"I am convinced that this bold approach will cost American families far less than the alternative - a continuing series of financial institution failures and frozen credit markets unable to fund economic expansion," he said.

It should come as no surprise that US officials seemed a bit irked at EU representatives and Hawkswood's insistence that the US has caused "huge losses through repudiation of its WTO commitments."

Hawkswood has shown no signs of trying to work with iMEGA or its founder, Joe Brennan, Jr.

China has joined the EU in launching a dispute against the United States at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) over U.S. measures against imports of certain steel pipes, tyres and woven sacks, China's WTO mission said on Friday.

'Considering that bilateral consultations between China and the U.S. failed to solve concerns of China, China requested consultations with the U.S. under the WTO dispute settlement mechanism regarding those measures,' it said in a statement.

It is the second trade case launched by China. In September last year China challenged U.S. measures against imports of coated sheet paper.

It is unclear what steps the US will take next in meeting its WTO obligations.

Brennan Jr. sees a time when the US Government may actually look towards his organization in helping to regulate the online gambling industry.

Ironically, it is Sporting bet - a Guernsey-based betting firm - that has led the way in calling for the US to regulate the industry. Sportingbet officials will be speaking in Barcelona. That company is well regarded in Costa Rica - home to most US-facing online gambling sites - having once operated a successful betting office there.

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Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher

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