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Hartley Henderson's Letter to the Editor of The Minot Daily News...By Hartley Henderson

The editorial Hartley is commenting on is located here:

To Whom it May Concern,

Your editorial regarding the WTO issue is full of misinformation.

First, you state "U.S. law does not permit Internet gambling. Rightly or wrongly, that's our rule".

The above is not true. Internet gambling, along with all forms of gambling in the United States is governed by the states themselves, not by federal law. In some states such as Washington and South Dakota betting on the Internet is forbidden. In other states it is not. As for your own state, North Dakota, there are no laws that specifically deal with the Internet. All North Dakotan laws relate to gambling in general and you should note that gambling does legally take place in your state, and in fact across America. This notion that "Internet gambling is illegal" is just not true for every state. By the way, in North Dakota bets under $25 on anything, even placed on the Internet are perfectly legal, and bets between $25 and $500 are simply an infraction, possibly subject to a fine by those placing the bets. It is true that almost all states make it illegal for Americans to operate gambling services, whether on the Internet, in a bar or in a backroom, but those "anti-mobster" laws have been around long before the Internet was invented.

Secondly, you write, "But the European Union, Canada and Japan complained to the WTO about that - and the world organization ruled that the United States is wrong. This past week, U.S. officials agreed to make up for our lapse by granting certain trade concessions to the EU, Canada and Japan. In addition, the United States will have to drop its restrictions on bank and credit card payments to international gambling organizations."

This comment shows a lack of understanding about anything that happened in the WTO dispute since the inception of the suit close to four years ago. The United States made a commitment to provide recreational services (including gambling) to all WTO members. They had every chance to take out gambling from their commitments when they signed the agreement, but chose not to. When they realized that this decision may not have been a smart one they tried to renege on the agreement and Antigua called them to task on it. The WTO ruled numerous times in Antigua's favor and the U.S. chose to wave the white flag and then announced they would be withdrawing that commitment. As part of WTO rules, in exchange for changing ones mind any countries that feel they could be hurt as a result of this change have the right to demand compensation. The EU (which lost almost $5.5 billion as a result of the U.S.'s decision to block companies from selling services to the U.S.), Canada, which could stand to lose billions, Japan, India, Macau and Costa Rica chose to seek compensation. The U.S., as you stated, came to an agreement which many would see as a pretty cheap form of getting their way.

Suppose the shoe was on the other foot. Let's say China allowed the U.S. to sell American made software to China, but after the U.S. companies spent billions setting up the infrastructure and sales networks, China changed its mind and told the U.S. they couldn't sell the products there. Would you claim that it is China's right to dispute their agreement and shouldn't be obligated to allow the U.S. software into the country?

Your claim that the United States will have to drop its restrictions on bank and credit card payments to gambling companies is also untrue. Can you please provide the source where you received that information from? I'm sure Visa and Citibank would love to see that decision so they can resume offering those services.

Lastly, the whole scope of your editorial, ending with, "When such organizations dictate to the United States that it will enforce its own laws, something is terribly wrong," is ignorant and fails to understand why the WTO was set up in the first place by countries like the U.S. The WTO was intended to provide small countries with the same trade opportunities as large companies without being dictated to because of size. Unfortunately, such has not happened in past WTO trade agreements. In case after case, the United States has won decisions against smaller countries in the WTO causing many to feel the WTO has not been acting fairly because it has been favoring the United States and other large countries. This is the one of the very few times where a smaller country has won against the U.S., and unfortunately people like you seem to be screaming when you should be applauding that the WTO is finally operating as it should.

But most concerning is your comment, "When such organizations dictate to the United States that it will enforce its own laws, something is terribly wrong." "Its own laws are also the United States' laws." The WTO is not a foe to the United States. The WTO is a multilateral organization that has come up with rules that all countries agreed to INCLUDING the United States. It is the United States that is trying to change the rules that it happily signed without duress.


Hartley Henderson

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