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Antigua still seeking remuneration in WTO ruling on US online gambling embargo

Take a big step back in time to 2003, when online gambling was just reaching a pinnacle in popularity all around the world. At that time, the island nation of Antigua and Barbuda was reportedly earning $3 billion a year from American players on its locally licensed online casino and poker operations. The United States quickly put an end to it – something the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled breached the fair trade agreement – but despite the WTO’s order that Antigua and Barbuda be compensated for their losses, the US has failed to make good on that ruling.

The WTO is in charge of making sure that all member nations keep their trade markets open and fair where legally obligated. A significant portion of Antigua’s economy was supported by its proliferation of online casino gambling to American customers. But of course, watching so many untaxed dollars flow offshore, the United States didn’t take it well. The US told the Antiguan government that online gambling was illegal in the United States and to stop accepting Americans or suffer legal retribution.

The island nation took its argument up with the WTO, stating that online gambling was not illegal by US law and that their economy would suffer tremendously if forced to stop accepting American online casino and poker players. The WTO eventually ruled in Antigua’s favor, but instead of allowing them to continue peddling online gambling services to US citizens, the island nation was given the right to sell US-derived media (movies, music cd’s, etc.) without paying the US for them. In layman’s terms, Antigua and Barbuda would be allowed to legally pirate US media.

Unfortunately for the oceanic government, that plan never came to fruition. Last week, Antigua took its case back to the WTO with a new plan to obtain compensation from the US government for its estimated $3 billion per year in lost economic gain. The WTO Dispute Settlement Body met on August 29th, and representatives of Antigua and Barbuda were on hand to make a fresh case.

The “newly elected government has, after considerable deliberation and with a view towards a prompt and final resolution of this long-standing matter, formulated yet another comprehensive and realistic proposal”, read a statement. The proposal has reportedly been delivered to the US government already, and “represents a significant concession to the United States from earlier proposals.”

No further information was provided in regards to the contents of the new proposal, but the statement did claim that it “represents but the slightest fraction of the harm done to the Antiguan economy by the failure of the United States to observe its obligations under the GATS”.

Considering that this dispute dates back more than a decade, it would be highly presumptuous to expect a conclusion on the updated matter in a timely fashion. Whether the US will agree to the terms of the new proposal or not is hard to judge without any substantiated details, but if past history has taught us anything, it will surely take an official order from the WTO to impose any injunction on the US, and even then, the mightier nation may not honor that decision.

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