The arguably offhand response of the US Trade Representative, Susan Schwab, to a European Commission questionnaire on claimed protectionist and unfair policies in the USA regarding Internet gambling has triggered a critical reaction from the Remote Gaming Association.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, the operators’ trade body through which the complaint was filed, told eGaming Review this week that the covering letter and two-sided response dismissing the questionnaire appeared to have been sent on behalf of all US federal authorities which received the European Commission document.
Hawkswood revealed that the RGA complaint covered over 30 sides plus annexes. "You would have thought the US would have had more to say than we would," he said. "The tone is very dismissive. If I was a Commissioner or an official, my nose would be severely out of joint, as a lot of work went into what was a long, well thought-out questionnaire," he added.
Lodged with the EC last December, the RGA complaint protested the uneven treatment, when compared to their US counterparts, meted out to European and other foreign online operators by the US Department of Justice prior to the UIGEA.
Hawkswood questioned the assertions of the USTR, who appears to feel that a compensation agreement with the EU over the American withdrawal of its World Trade Organisation gambling obligations settled the matter.
“It’s a completely different aspect," the RGA executive claims. "The deal was on them [USTR] withdrawing their commitments, not applying the [WTO] treaty unfairly while we still had the commitments.”
The US trade representative denial that European Internet gambling operators had been singled out for prosecution is also questioned by Hawkswood. “The US trade representative has said limited resources mean they’re unable to prosecute everyone, and it’s just coincidence that only EU operators are being prosecuted. The RGA will be seeking some balance," he said.
The American authorities will soon be meeting with a European Union delegation led by Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson to further discuss the dispute, again focusing attention on the protectionist issue on both sides of the Atlantic.