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Thursday, October 13, 2005

Casino tables

The Isle of Man, a British crown dependency in the Irish Sea, is reversing a four-year-old policy that has deterred Internet casinos based there from accepting bets from United States residents.

The policy change, while affecting only a handful of Internet casinos, adds a wrinkle to an emerging trade battle between the United States and many other countries over Internet gambling.

American prosecutors maintain that federal laws prohibit online gambling. And they have tried to curb the growing popularity of such gambling in the United States by threatening legal action against American companies that do business with overseas Internet casinos, whose operations fall outside their jurisdiction. A number of American banks do not allow the use of their credit cards for Internet gambling.

But despite the restrictions, Americans still place more wagers online annually than residents of any other country. Internet casinos around the world and the jurisdictions that license them are eager for this business.

The decision by the Isle of Man--which makes its own domestic laws and relies on Britain for defense and foreign policy--to allow its licensed Internet casinos to take bets from Americans went into effect on Jan. 1. The change is significant because the island, which began licensing such casinos in 2001, initially sought to attract blue-chip gambling operations by defining itself as a place with rigorous regulation.