GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 2 - October 2007

30 Online gambling case pits Antigua against U.S. and challenges WTO By Gary Rivlin NEW YORK — With long blond hair reaching his shoulders and dozens of cloth bracelets peeking out from under his sleeves, Mark Mendel hardly conjures up the image of a typical lawyer. But then there is nothing run-of-the-mill about the case that Mendel, a Texan who was born and reared in Southern California, has been waging against his own government before the World Trade Organization. It is a clash that at once challenges Washington’s attempt to prohibit on- line gambling while si- multaneously testing the ability of the WTO to enforce its own stan- dards. The dispute stretches back to 2003, when Mendel, 51, first per- suaded officials in Anti- gua and Barbuda, a tiny nation in the Caribbean with a population of about 70,000, to make a trade complaint against the United States, claim- ing that its ban against Americans’ gambling over the Internet violat- ed Antigua’s rights as a member of the WTO. Antigua is best known to Americans for its pristine beaches. But the dozens of online casinos based there are vital to the island’s economy, serving as a major employer. More than a few people in Washington initially dismissed as absurd the idea that the trade organization could claim jurisdiction over something as basic as a country’s own policies toward gambling. Various states and the federal government, after all, have been deeply engaged for decades in where and when to allow casinos, Indian gambling halls, race tracks, lotteries and the like to operate. GPWA TIMES | Online gambling case pits Antigua against U.S. and challenges WTO Copyright 2007 The New York Times Company