04/07/2005 12:00AM

Court rules U.S. can ban offshore bets


The World Trade Organization's appeals court ruled Thursday that the United States could bar offshore gambling sites from accepting wagers from U.S. residents, reversing a lower court's ruling. The court also said, however, that the United States needs to clarify its position on horse race betting, citing the legality of Internet wagering on horse races in many states.

The ruling came in a case brought by Antigua, a nation that has welcomed Internet gambling companies. The WTO's lower court had earlier ruled that Antigua could issue trade sanctions against the United States for restricting Internet wagering by its citizens. Antigua had called the restrictions a restraint on trade.

The appeals court said that the United States could bar Internet gambling because the activity falls under exceptions allowed for "public morals" or "public order." But the court also asked the federal government to iron out seeming inconsistencies in the U.S. position on Internet wagering on horse racing, a practice that is explicitly legal in many states and considered legal under provisions of the federal Interstate Horse Racing Act.