According to the Associated Press – Harold Lovell – Finance Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, has said that they are going to pursue their long-standing dispute over online gambling with the USA. This small Island State with a population of less than 90 000, has unsuccessfully pursued this dispute since UIGEA was enacted in late 2006.
They have accused their giant northern neighbour of "hobbling its fragile economy" when they banned US punters from taking online bets and wagers with online operators. There were a great many online gambling websites which licensed their offshore operations in the Island State. Antigua says they are looking for a fair settlement according to a World Trade Organisation ruling which told them they have a valid claim.
Negotiations came to a standstill when the USA simply ignored to acknowledge their claim. The WTO dispute mechanism was then used to attempt to get the issue back onto the bargaining table. The Island State – like many other countries world-wide – are in a delicate fiscal position and feel that the matter "pushed their backs up against a wall".
At the next WTO meeting on the 17th December, this matter will be brought up on behalf of Antigua Barbuda. All things considered $176 Million is not a great deal of money, but the USA is also in a pretty cash-strapped state. At one time Antigua even requested that the WTO impose $3 billion in sanctions on the USA to force them to comply with the ruling granting them compensation. The WTO only enforced sanctions of $21 million per year.
These retaliatory sanctions against have come to be known as the David vs. Goliath trade battle. But being a small country they say it is not their intention to have a fight. However, they do believe they have the rights to protect their sovereignty as well as rely on the might of the WTO to back up their claim.
This ex-British colony once housed a thriving online casino industry, where numerous licensees employed around 3000 people and generated an income of approximately $1 billion.
Lovell says they are determined to pursue punitive action and insist that having failed through all other avenues, sanctions are the only recourse they have left. Barring a last minute settlement being made, the intention is to announce which industries will be targeted for sanction action. The US Tread Representative office has not responded as yet.
The USA is now also considering making online gambling legal, but it is taking years for the Federal Government to come to any decision. In the meantime individual states have taken the legal situation into their own hands and the State of Nevada was the first to make intrastate online gambling legal. It is believed that other states will follow suit, but what is really needed is Federal regulation and legislation.
At this juncture it is interesting to note that approximately half of the gamblers in the world are based in the USA.