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Antigua Considers Sanctions Against The United States

Written by:
Alejandro Botticelli
Published on:
Jul/06/2010
Antigua Sanctions United States

The tiny Caribbean island nation of Antigua plans to take sanctions against the United States in its quest to have full compliance of a World Trade Organization decision on Internet gambling.  To date, the US government and local law enforcement continue to aggressively go after online gambling entities operating outside the States.  Antigua claimed that such actions placed undue stress on its nearly 15 year Web gambling sector, which has long accounted for a significant percentage of the nation's overall economy. 

Last year, Antigua was rocked by the closure of its largest bank when US federal agents raided the Houston offices of Stanford Financial on February 17, 2009. Hundreds of clients seeking to withdraw funds rushed to branches of a bank in Antigua, many unable to retrieve their funds.

The Jamaican Gleaner reported Tuesday that Antigua Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said Antigua and Barbuda would seek sanctions against the United States if Washington continues to thwart efforts at finding a negotiated solution to its dispute over Internet Gaming Services.

The WTO ruling came in 2007 and, since that time, the situation for online gambling has only gotten worse. 

Spencer would now seek an early meeting with President Barack Obama on the issue.

"Antigua and Barbuda is concerned that the negotiations are being protracted, with no potential end in sight. In light of the obvious unwillingness of the United States to reach a negotiated settlement that takes into account the contribution of the sector to the economic well-being of Antigua and Barbuda, we have brought the matter before the Conference of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community, which has supported Antigua and Barbuda's position on this matter from the inception".

And Spencer's objective to meet with President Obama may come to fruition with a potentially positive outcome. Democratic House Financial Services Committee Chairman and strong ally of Obama's, Barney Frank, has been trying to pass legislation that would legalize Internet gambling.

Spencer said he hoping to secure "firm regional support to call upon the United States, a hemispheric partner, once and for all, to settle this outstanding matter" dating back to 2007.

 

He said that Caricom has the authority to act in unison to protect the interest of member states and that it should utilise "all at its disposal to facilitate settlement of this matter.

 

"In the absence of a resolution, the economy of Antigua and Barbuda is suffering. There has been a dramatic decline in the sector, significant increase in unemployment as a result, stakeholders, business operators are suffering and many have left our shores for other parts because of this elusive settlement," Spencer told a news conference.

While sanctions may have little affect, Antigua could exercise its rights to allow industries to operate freely in the island nation that might adversely challenge US businesses such as record pirating.  Antigua has shown no inclination to go such a route however.

"Nevertheless, given the debilitating impact of the fiscal and economic crisis on our economy and the apparent disinterest of the United States in dealing decisively with this matter, Antigua and Barbuda may have no other alternative but to signal to the WTO that we wish to impose sanctions. We are fast running out of options," Spencer said.

Antigua's online gambling sector is less than half of what it was more than five years ago.  Much of this has to do with competition from other i-gaming friendly jurisdictions such as Costa Rica, Great Britain, Malta and the Khanawake Reserve outside of Montreal, Quebec.

Furthermore, once prominent Internet gambling firms operating on the island have either been sold or have witnessed a near total collapse.  The once dominating World Wide Tele Sports was purchased by Bodog in 2006 while one of Antigua's first licensees, World Sports Exchange, has been straddled with cash flow issues and unable to pay clients in a timely fashion.

Alejandro Botticelli 

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