Antigua Losing Patience with U.S. in WTO Ruling on Sportsbooks

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The central government of Antigua and Barbuda has yet to be paid on a $21 million World Trade Organization ruling in 2004 against the United States for prohibiting operation of offshore gambling sites that economically damaged the twin islands.

The ruling from the World Trade Organization (WTO) came down in 2005 after Antigua had been complaining since 1998 that the United States’ prohibition against offshore gambling sites was severely and negatively affecting their nation’s economy. Though Antigua and Barbuda alleged that the island nation had suffered almost 3½ billion dollars in lost revenue per year, the WTO awarded the relatively meager sum of $21 million. Over a decade later the ruling stands but the remedy has not been satisfied.

Discussions regarding the award between the two parties have resulted in little movement towards a resolution. The United States has put forth proposals which have been summarily rejected on several occasions by Antigua and now the injured party is claiming that the $21 million is more akin to $100 million since the ruling was first issued.

Prime Minister Gaston Browne said earlier this week that, "We will make further efforts to negotiate an acceptable solution with the US, but, like every other citizen and resident of our nation, our patience is wearing thin.”

The WTO has authorized Antigua to suspend protections of U.S. intellectual property rights as an option to collecting the money damages owed.

The Prime Minister remarked the following according to a report by the Jamaica Observer: "This is not our preferred option and we hope that we will not be forced to exercise it, but we will if necessary. President Barack Obama has said on more than one occasion that, in the conduct of international relations, 'might is not right', and not because countries are small that larger ones 'should just elbow them aside'. We agree with President Obama and with the culture of fairness that we know characterizes the American people. We will invoke those principles in our negotiations with the US agencies as two friendly countries with a history of cooperation and collaboration."

Online bettors from the States have felt the chill towards foreign gambling operators as the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) has made it far more difficult to deposit and receive money from foreign gambling sites. However, the landscape may be thawing as more and more U.S. states are seeking to develop an online gambling presence to citizens within their borders. As the number of states increase in that regard, it may only be a matter of time before the federal government decides to soften its approach and reap the tax benefits from both domestic and international online gambling.

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