The USTR keeps rubbing salt in the EU’s wound: first, they withdrew access to the US gaming market with the UIGEA; then they prosecuted European companies for their gaming activities; and now they dismiss a questionnaire from the European Commission regarding protectionist policies.
The Remote Gaming Association was created in 2005 as a merge of the Association of Remote Gambling Operators (ARGO) and the Interactive Gaming, Gambling and Betting Association (IGGBA). Based in London, it represents “the world's largest licensed and stock market-listed remote gambling companies” including Victor Chandler, Party Gaming, Crypto Logic and Unibet among others. The RGA lodged a lengthy complaint (30 pages plus annexes) with the European Commission, accusing the USTR of protectionist practices even before the UIGEA was passed.
The European Commission proceeded to send a questionnaire to several US federal authorities enquiring on the alleged protectionism and unfair practices against the EU in the US gaming market. The response was underwhelming:Susan Schwab, the US Trade Representative, sent in a meager 2-page response dismissing the questionnaire. According to the Financial Times, Schwab’s letter said there was "no basis for any allegation of 'discriminatory enforcement' of US gambling laws." The brief response to the questionnaire appears to have been sent on behalf of all US authorities who had received the questionnaire.
Clive Hawkswood, chief executive of the RGA, is naturally unimpressed by the USTR’s attitude: "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."
Some of the points pressed by the RGA are that European online operators were treated differently from US ones even before the UIGEA, and that only European operators seem to be prosecuted by the USTR. “The US trade representative has said limited resources mean they’re unable to prosecute everyone, and it’s just coincidence that only EU operators – such as Party Gaming and 888 Holdings – are being prosecuted. The RGA will be seeking some balance," said Hawkswood.
The situation may reach a critical stage in the near future, as a delegation led by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson travels to the US to meet with American authorities and discuss protectionist issues related to gaming on both continents.