Antigua In New Appeal To World Trade Organisation Over Online Gambling Dispute (Update)

Islanders “losing all hope” of being treated fairly by United States in 15-year-long wrangle over online gambling

One constant element in the evolution of the international online gambling market has been the repeated attempts by the government of Antigua and Barbuda to pressure the US government into honouring dispute judgements passed by the World Trade Organisation in the islanders’ favour.

InfoPowa readers will recall that following questionable US bans on Antigua’s nascent online gambling industry severe damage to the island economy was caused, spurring Antigua to repeatedly and successfully argue before WTO dispute panels that the American prohibitions were contrary to WTO agreements and obligations, and discriminatory.

The dispute panels eventually awarded a very reasonable (for the US) $21 million a year financial settlement in Antigua’s favour, an amount which has since accrued over the years to around $320 million as US officials ducked and dived through a series of meetings on the issue, but did not in any practical way meet the WTO findings.

Antigua, clearly hoping that the US would ultimately meet its obligations, held off on the rights it was given by the WTO to use trade and IP measures to extract payment, and the dispute has continued to rumble on despite various meetings and repeated public appeals by Antigua for redress.

The Reuters news agency reported Friday that in the latest of these appeals, Antigua’s ambassador, Ronald Sanders, said that the islanders are “losing all hope” of a financial settlement, and intimated that Antigua may ask the head of the World Trade Organisation to mediate.

“We continued to hope that a sense of justice and fairness would prevail. But, we are now losing all hope,” Sanders told the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

“After a long period of exhausting attempts to engage the United States, Antigua and Barbuda is now contemplating, once again, approaching the (WTO) Director-General… to join in seeking a mediated solution that would bring much needed relief after these arduous 15 years of damage to our economy.”

The United States responded by accusing Antigua and Barbuda of playing politics!

U.S. Ambassador Dennis Shea told the WTO meeting that Antigua had made “extreme demands”, and monetary payments were not provided for under the rules. The United States had made repeated offers to settle the row, to no avail, he said.

The current U.S. administration had had no reply to a formal offer of further discussions, Shea claimed, adding: “For these reasons, Antigua’s decision to place this matter on the agenda today appears to be a political statement, rather than an effort to engage on a resolution of this dispute.”