Antigua Still Fighting United States in iGaming Dispute

by Jim Hall

Antigua vs USAntigua renews efforts to be compensated by the United States government based on banning online gambling operators who are licensed within the country. Prime Minster Gaston Browne wants to see Antigua earn what is due based on World Trade Organization rulings.

Since 2004, Antigua has been fighting to offer online gambling to residents in the United States. The US government banned sites that are licensed in Antigua from offering services to residents years ago, which the country says has now cost them hundreds of millions of dollars. Talks continue between the officials of the United States and the government of Antigua to try and end the long-running dispute, with Antigua government officials not agreeable to the most recent proposal by US officials.

Since 2014, Gaston Browne has held the position of Prime Minister of Antigua and has tried to see the country earn payment based on a ruling by the World Trade Organization. The office of Browne has reported that the proposals presented by the government of the United States do not represent a serious commitment to resolve the issue between the two governments.

US Bans Operators Based in Antigua

When the United States banned operators based in Antigua from offering services in the US, the country lose several million in revenues within a short time frame. By 2005, the World Trade Organization ruled in favor of Antigua and the US was found guilty of being in violation of international trade agreements by prohibiting offshore online gambling sites from offering their operations in the states.

At this time, Antigua claimed they had lost $3.4 billion but was only awarded $21 million by the World Trade Organization. Also during this time, Antigua was allowed to forgo obligations of intellectual property rights which means the country could sell movies, books and other copyrighted material without having to pay royalty fees to do so. The country has yet to do so but could eventually start selling such materials in this matter as a way to try and gain monies the country feels they are owed.

Not Waiting Any Longer for Action by the US

During a speech this week, Browne commented on how the US proposals are not serious and that since the initial ruling by the WTO, the country has now lost as much as $200 million. At the same time that Antigua lost so much money, Browne states that the United States was able to gain hundreds of millions of dollars from fines and penalties after prosecuting online gaming operators who provided services from Barbuda and Antigua.

Browne would like to continue to negotiate with the officials of the United States but Antigua officials and residents have seen their patience wearing thin. Browne stated that both Antigua and Barbuda have sought redress from the World Trade Organization because the area had a thriving online gaming industry which employed a large number of individuals and produced significant earnings for the economy. The country had a duty of care to the people of Antigua. Due to the banning from the United States, Antigua lost lucrative jobs for residents and significant revenues to the National Treasury were also lost.

Pay What Is Due

Browne reiterated that Antigua is not asking for anything other than what they have lost and what they are entitled to based on the rules of the World Trade Organization. Browne and officials of Antigua are hopeful that authorities in the United States will be agreeable now to an expeditious settlement or enforcement options may have to be implemented, which would include the measures that the WTO authorized to suspend the protections of United States Intellectual property rights.

The Prime Minister also made mention that the matter has been drawn out for too long to the severe disadvantage of the residents of Antigua and Barbuda. It will be interesting to see if any resolution will be made in this matter after all these years or if Antigua will have to fight further to receive the compensation owed.