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
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.