Antigua And USA Still Working On Deal

Published on: January 30, 2009 

The country of Antigua, where most of the online casinos and poker rooms are licensed through, is still fighting to resolve their dispute with the United States.  According to a report released on Thursday, January 29, 2009, the island nation is looking for a compromise with the American government regarding the ongoing dispute.  Antigua has a population of around 70,000 people and it was one of the first nations to accept and embrace online gambling when it was introduced in the early 1990s.  The nation began to license online casinos and poker rooms in 1996 and they are still viewed as the center for online gambling companies.  World Sports Exchange and Intertops are just two of the big name i-gaming software firms that work with the island nation on their licensing.

When the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was passed in the United States in 2006, the country banned banks and other financial institutions from accepting payouts from online gaming websites as well as funding player accounts.  This caused many online casinos and poker rooms to pull their site access from the United States.  In December 2007, the World Trade Organization (WTO) ruled in favor of Antigua in their request to impose a $3.4 billion retaliatory measure against the United States.   

According to the island nation, the United States allegedly violated their commitments to the WTO as far as fair trade agreements went.  Antigua argued that the United States and their individual states was practicing ‘protectionism’ when it came to the way online gaming was being governed.  This was no more apparent than when the state of Kentucky unsuccessfully attempted to seize 141 online gaming domain names in an effort to keep them from being run in the state.  The state of Kentucky claimed that websites interfered with their own horse gambling business.

Thanks to the WTO, Antigua is permitted to use annual trade sanctions against the United States and ask for revenue equally $21 million each year retroactive to 2006 until the American government complies with the WTO’s sanctions.  So far the United States has not complied and has made efforts to stall any form of resolution since the sanctions were first put into place in 2007.  According to the lawyers representing Antigua and Barbuda – the other country that licenses online gaming websites – the case remains suspended until both nations come to some sort of settlement.  The lawyer, Mark Mendel, is optimistic over the continued talks and has met personally with officials in Washington, DC.

Mendel is hoping with the new Obama administration a new Office of U.S. Trade Representative comes into play and that the trade obligations will be honored.  "We have high hopes that the new moral tone of this administration might make it more inclined to honor its trade obligations, particularly with small, developing countries," he told the media.

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