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Hong Kong Considers Affects of WTO Ruling

1 April 2004

HONG KONG – As reported by the China Standard: "The government's ambitious attempt to stop residents from betting on offshore websites may have run into a new obstacle: the World Trade Organisation.

"Following lobbying by the Hong Kong Jockey Club, which has a government monopoly on all gambling in the territory except for mah-jong, the Legislative Council enacted a law two years ago making it a crime to place a bet from Hong Kong with an overseas bookmaker or for an overseas bookie to take bets from here.

"…The government and the Jockey Club, which takes bets on its own site, identified offshore websites as a major target of the law.

"…The WTO has now weighed in on a similar US law, declaring in a ruling expected to be made public later this month that the measure violates Washington's commitments under the organisation's agreement on commercial services trade.

"The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda brought the case against the US and would be the only immediate beneficiary of the ruling.

"So far Hong Kong officials are expressing no concern about the WTO decision.

"…Kim Mak, executive director of corporate development for the Jockey Club, also expressed no alarm. He noted that the US intends to appeal.

"…Margaret Ng, the Legislative Council member representing the legal constituency, questions the government's response.

"`We should try and conform to the rules of the WTO,''said Ng, who has long criticised the law for criminalising activities by foreigners in their own countries…"

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