Antigua & Barbuda gives US new deadline to end gaming dispute

Antigua & Barbuda has given the United States until the end of the year to settle the long running dispute over internet gaming amid claims in excess of US$200 million.

The Gaston Browne administration, which earlier this year dismissed a proposals by the United States to end the dispute, has given Washington until the end of this month to agree to a settlement or face sanctions.

A statement posted on the World Trade Organization (WTO) website noted that Antigua & Barbuda has warned that “if a settlement was not reached before the end of 2016, the twin-island nation would have to resort to the suspension of copyright on the sale of US intellectual property.”

Antigua & Barbuda’s Ambassador to the United States, Ronald Sanders in an interview with reporters, said “if they put something on the table that is reasonable then that would remove the end-of-year deadline, because then we would have something we could actually look at favorably. So far that has not happened.”

In 2005, the WTO ruled that Washington had violated international trade agreements by prohibiting operation of offshore Internet gambling sites. Antigua & Barbuda claimed that it lost US$3.4 billion a year due to the US action, but the WTO awarded the twin-island nation US$21 million.

But in its final ruling, the Geneva-based WTO allowed Antigua & Barbuda to suspend certain concessions and obligations it has under international law to the United States in respect of intellectual property rights.

In September 2014, the Browne administration said that it was seeking US$100 million to settle the dispute, admitting that while the figure represents a reduction on what Antigua & Barbuda had originally been demanding, it is negotiable and could be a mixture of cash and kind.

In July, this year, Prime Minister Browne in a radio and television broadcast said then that his administration had dismissed a proposal by the United States to end their long-running dispute over internet gaming. Browne said that the twin island-nation cannot be deprived of the money owed to it and was adopting a new strategy in a bid to recover the funds.

Antigua & Barbuda has criticized the United States since 1998 of breaching its commitments to members of the WTO under the General Agreement on Trade in Services by enacting laws that prevented foreign-based operators from offering gambling and betting services to its citizens. -(CMC)