Atlanta lawyer Brian Steel has immersed himself in international law and the legal complexities of Internet gambling as he prepares to defend a man federal authorities allege was connected with a gambling empire that stretched from Great Britain to the Caribbean.

The St. Louis case is being watched closely by the multibillion dollar online gambling industry, which has seen its operations hampered by a new federal law signed by President Bush last year. The case also has implications for trade agreements between the U.S. and other countries where such gambling is legal. Some nations have complained that the U.S. may be violating trade agreements by taking legal action against such companies that are based outside U.S. jurisdiction.