Monday October 5,2015 : ANTIGUA STILL BATTLING FOR JUSTICE WITH U.S. GOVERNMENT IN ONLINE GAMBLING CASE
11 years, several WTO panel decisions and a slew of meetings, yet still no resolution.
The latest in a seemingly endless series of negotiations between Antigua and Barbuda and the USA over an online gambling dispute seems to have bogged down, judging by an impassioned plea to the United Nations last week by Antigua PM Gaston Browne.
In a speech to the Assembly, Browne talked about the twelve-year dispute and the continued refusal of the Americans to fulfil their World Trade Organisation obligations to his nation. He suggested that the lack of assistance to his country illustrated a reprehensible "right is might" and morally wrong mentality, but assured the US that he would not retreat from the issue.
The dispute began in 2003 when Antigua, the centre of a nascent online gambling industry at the time, laid a claim against the United States at the WTO regarding the hypocrisy of its denial of access to the US market by Antiguan-registered internet gambling companies.
Antigua pointed to the anomaly of carve-outs in US law that permitted online betting on horse races, claiming that US bans were discriminatory and inconsistent with WTO trade agreements.
The US ban decimated Antigua's promising online gambling industry, creating job and financial losses.
That triggered a series of WTO dispute panel proceedings from which Antigua repeatedly emerged the winner, but these turned out to be a hollow victories as the US stonewalled on the issue, continuing to impose the bans, but allowing its domestic internet horse racing businesses to operate.
That led to further WTO involvement in a dispute process which resulted in an order to the US to pay Antigua a less-than-anticipated $21 million a year in penalties until it had met its obligations. However, the United States has allegedly not obeyed the order, resulting in a backlog of payments approaching $200 million, Browne revealed.
Extensive meetings between Antigua and the US Trade Representative have proved to be a roller coaster of optimism and pessimism on the part of the islanders, but the bottom line appears to be that a resolution of the dispute remains elusive despite Antigua's preparedness to accept less than it has been awarded….hence Browne's appeal to the United Nations for justice.