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Mandelson pot shot at gaming prohibitionists 11/3/2008
Simon Bowers

Peter Mandelson, the EU trade commissioner, has called for US prosecutors to stop targeting online gambling companies with links to Europe - including London-listed PartyGaming, Sportingbet and 888.

The EU is backing an industry group which says the US is breaking free trade commitments by seeking to prosecute overseas online gambling companies that stopped taking bets from America after prohibition 17 months ago. The support does not affect a deal under which the US extended certain trade concessions after passing the unlawful internet gambling enforcement act.

Yesterday's development will be watched by London-listed companies which retreated from the US but operate under the shadow of possible retrospective indictments. Many analysts believe their value would climb if directors could give investors clarity on the likely impact of a settlement with the US government. Others believe companies may struggle if US prosecutors pursue large sums accrued by founders who sold at the peak.

Mandelson said: "The US has the right to address legitimate public policy concerns relating to internet gambling, but discrimination against EU companies cannot be part of the policy mix. "

The Remote Gambling Association is also supporting complaints to Brussels against Greece, the Netherlands, Germany and Sweden, claiming the member states have breached EU free trade rules. Almost all RGA members - including PartyGaming, Sportingbet, 888 and state-owned Totesport - have significant operations registered offshore for tax reasons.

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