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Antigua Reacts to US Indictments

By: Fabian Rictor, Friday April 22nd 2011
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Antigua is one of the oldest online gambling jurisdictions and has issued licenses to a number of leading online casino operators as well as providers of other online gambling services. The jurisdiction is engaged in a bitter and protracted dispute with the United States over online gambling. America has failed to recognize the legitimacy of Antigua's licensed online gambling operators despite specific decisions handed down by the WTO. After being unsuccessful in compelling the US to comply with the WTO rulings Antigua has even tried to find a compromise solution. But this attempt was also rejected by America. With the criminal indictments carried out by the US Department of Justice last week, old wounds have been reopened and Antigua has reacted strongly against these actions.

The Antiguan Minister for Finance and the Economy, the Honorable Harold Lovell, has pointed out that the US authorities continue to prosecute non-domestic suppliers of online gambling services in violation of International law. The indictment against the three leading online poker rooms licensed in offshore jurisdictions is an example. He added, "I am not aware of any other situation where a member of the World Trade Organization has subjected persons to criminal prosecution under circumstances where the WTO has expressly ruled that to do so is in breach of an International treaty."

Mark Mendel, who was Antigua's legal counsel in its dispute with the US at the WTO, explained the implications of the US action in greater detail. He said that the US benefits immensely from the free trade rules of the WTO and should not be allowed to break the rules when they go against its interests. Preventing licensed online gambling sites from operating in America is nothing but "economic protectionism at its worst". And this protection is being accorded to its domestic gambling interests regardless of its international legal obligations. Mendel concluded. "This is very hard to reconcile not only with its pronouncements regarding the imperative of other countries to strictly observe their WTO trade obligations but also with stated official United States government policy of adherence to the rule of law."

The dispute between the US and Antigua is in a limbo. The Antiguan government took this opportunity to state that they are examining all of the options they have as a result of the WTO decision. They are looking at how best they can press for an implementation of the WTO rulings. Since after spending considerable time and effort in trying to get the US to cooperate and not succeeding, the Antiguan government feels that it is time to go back to the WTO and get the international organization to compel America to fall in line.

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