This week, Caribbean trade bloc governments appealed to the U.S. to honor a World Trade Organization (WTO) ruling in favor of Antigua allowing Americans to gamble online internationally, saying its disregard for the world body could undermine the agency’s credibility.
Trade ministers, who wrapped up a two-day meeting at bloc headquarters in Guyana over the weekend, issued a special statement on the 11-year-long David versus Goliath-type battle. In 2003, Antigua had taken the U.S. to the Geneva-based organization after the U.S. had banned Americans from gaming at online stations in Antigua. Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer, who faces general elections in the coming weeks, said that the island had lost more than $1 billion a year in earnings from online gaming and sued for compensation, eventually winning the case.
Showing little regard for the political and enforcement might of both the island nation and the WTO, the U.S. has largely ignored the ruling and in the past had even offered Antigua a mere $500,000 in compensation while warning that it would wreak undisclosed harm on the island if it ever attempts to retaliate. Authorities there called the offer an insult.
In a ruling that was widely hailed as both legally correct and common sense, the world body ruled that while the U.S. had a right to protect its citizens from the perils of online gaming, it was nevertheless allowing its domestic horse racing industry to also offer international Internet wagering, calling it a contradiction.
The body then gave the U.S. a year to either allow gaming to restart out of Antigua, shut down the Internet gaming section of its horse racing industry or settle bilaterally with Antigua. Authorities say the ruling has largely been ignored.
Frustrated at the protracted fight between the two, the regional trade ministers argued that “the case was long outstanding and had the potential to undermine the credibility of the dispute settlement mechanism of the multilateral trading system. The council noted that the U.S. had so far failed to become compliant with the decision of the tribunal and had also failed to reach a settlement.”
In the meantime, the WTO has permitted Antigua to ignore U.S. copyright laws and benefit from sales of products in order to recoup losses from the cessation of online gaming, even as the U.S. said that such action would hurt the Caribbean nation.