Online Gambling, And A Line On The Pope - InformationWeek
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4/8/2005
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John Soat
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Online Gambling, And A Line On The Pope

GETTING ONLINE GAMBLING STRAIGHT ... The World Trade Organization ruled last week the United States could continue to ban online gambling, despite a protest from the tiny country of Antigua, which is home to many online gambling sites, that the ban violates fair-trade practices. The ruling came as the result of an appeal by the U.S. to an earlier ruling by the WTO in Antigua's favor. "This win confirms what we knew from the start--WTO Members are entitled to maintain restrictions on Internet gambling," said acting U.S. Trade Representative Peter Allgeier, in a statement. The WTO lets countries bar certain trade practices if they represent a threat to "public morals" and "public order," which was the basis of the U.S. appeal. In this closely watched case, Antigua protested that the United States' ban on online gambling--while still promoting gambling within and across its own borders--constituted unfair trade practices. Antigua also claimed victory in the WTO's ruling. "The ruling also notes that the U.S. laws in effect discriminate against foreign commerce," said Mark Mendel, lead counsel for Antigua, in a statement. "Unless the U.S. wants to repeal all of its laws that currently permit any form of domestic remote gambling and also adopt laws to affirmatively prohibit it in all forms countrywide, they will have to provide Antigua fair access."

... BECAUSE PEOPLE WILL BET ON ANYTHING. Speaking of online gambling, a colleague at our sister online publication, TechWeb, contacted gambling sites to find out the betting line on the new Pope. ("Online Gaming Sites May Have Inside Track On Next Pope"). Odds-on favorite to win when the College of Cardinals meets to pick a new leader for the Roman Catholic Church is Italy's Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, at anywhere from odds of 9-2 to 11-4. Antonia Sharpe, a spokeswoman for Betfair.com, notes that Pope wagering on its site has been under way for 18 months. Betting was slow initially, but has picked up sharply, with some $70,000 wagered so far. The other Cardinals, in order of betting odds on Betfair: Francis Arinze of Nigeria, at 15-to-2; O. Rodiguez Maradiaga of Honduras, 8-to-1; Claudio Hummes of Brazil, also at 8-to-1; and J. Ratizinger of Germany, 29-to-1.

MORE OPRAH.COM, LESS PLAYBOY. More women than men surf the Net, according to eMarketer Inc., which issued study results last week that girls and women represented 51.6% of online Americans last year, increasing to 52.6% by 2008. As recently as 1997, boys and men made up three-quarters of Internet users. "Cultural, societal, and Internet business trends are combining to shift the balance toward women," said eMarketer analyst Debra Aho Williamson in a statement accompanying the report she authored, Women Online In The U.S. "The female majority online will become more pronounced over the next five years--and that will have a transformative effect on content, commerce, and marketing." The study also says the annual growth rate for Web use by both sexes will slow in the coming years. Online growth among females will decline from 4% last year to 2.3% in 2008; for males, growth will slow from 3% in 2004 to 1.9% in 2008.

Are women interested in online gambling? And should that influence federal policy? It wouldn't be the first time federal officials ignored the interests of more than half the population. But don't ignore me with an industry tip, send it to jsoat@cmp.com or phone 516-562-5326. If you want to talk about online gambling, meet me at InformationWeek.com's Listening Post: informationweek.com/forum/johnsoat.


To discuss this column with other readers, please visit John Soat's forum on the Listening Post.

To find out more about John Soat, please visit his page on the Listening Post.

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