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Online Gambling Ban: Antigua and Barbuda Seek WTO Sanctions

The small Caribbean Island nation of Antigua and Barbuda is seeking sanctions against the US government after it allowed the mandated April 3rd deadline to pass without any effort to resolve a nearly three year old gambling dispute.

World Trade Organization judges last year gave the US until Monday 3rd April to bring in amendments to its laws to comply with the General Agreement on Trade in Services in regards to its prohibition of provision of gambling and betting services from Antigua and Barbuda to US consumers.

However the deadline passed with no apparent effort from the United States government to resolve the issue or come into line with the Agreement.

An Antiguan government statement said that the US had simply refused to discuss any compromise or settlement and “It is ironic that at this point in time when the United States are upbraiding other WTO nations for failing to meet their obligations under WTO agreements and failing to act as ‘responsible stakeholders’ in international trade matters, the very same United States government would treat its own WTO obligations to Antigua and Barbuda with such scant regard.”

US federal law bars bet placing across state lines by electronic means, claiming this ban was crippling its gaming market (set up to boost the economy after a series of hurricanes and now accounting for about one quarter of the $12billion dollar industry) Antigua filed a formal complaint to the WTO against the US back in 2003.

In 2004 Antigua received a surprise victory from the WTO. The ruling was based on the idea that the when the US signed on to its General Agreement on Trade in Services in 1994 it agreed to let in all “Recreational, Cultural and Sporting Services”…”except sporting”. Other countries included “gambling” in their list of excluded services.

The WTO cited that this agreement ruled that the US had agreed to let in Internet Gambling from all countries that had signed the agreement. Arguing that “sporting” meant gambling the US lost the case.

Mark Mendel, the chief legal counsel to Antigua has stated that they intend to back their case up and forge ahead with seeking sanctions.

However the imposition of sanctions by such a small nation could prove extremely difficult. Small nations have before been unable to implement WTO approved sanctions due to the damage on their economies.


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