If the World Trade Organization rules in favor of Internet gambling in Antigua and Barbuda, the United States will probably appeal, a U.S. official said Tuesday.
The United States contends that Internet gambling should be prohibited because it violates some U.S. state laws. Antigua and Barbuda says the U.S. position is contrary to global trade rules.
The last of many rounds of talks between the two countries took place last week. No agreement was reached, and Antigua and Barbuda said it would ask the WTO to rule on the dispute, said Mary Ellen Gilroy, U.S. deputy chief of mission to Eastern Caribbean countries.
A country that feels it has been unfairly treated in a trade dispute can ask the WTO for a ruling. The WTO can be asked to reverse its decision in an appeal process.
"The WTO has not yet ruled. But the U.S. will look at the ruling and may appeal if the decision goes against it," Gilroy said.
No U.S. federal law prohibits gambling, which is regulated by state law. In many states, gambling is banned or permitted with restrictions.
In 1996, when U.S. lawmakers first sought to control Internet gambling, 30 Web sites received bets totaling $30 million.
This year, more than 1,800 Web sites are projected to accept about $7 billion in wagers, according to BetonSports.com, which is promoting a "right to wager online" petition to U.S. Congress.
By 2010, the Internet gambling market is expected to grow to $18.4 billion.