The United States may have hurt its own cause against online gambling when Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) Sept. 30. The nation is already being investigated by the World Trade Organization to see if it has complied with a ruling requiring it to change its online gambling ban laws, and the new legislation may strengthen the case against it.
While it's disappointing for Antigua and Barbuda, the nation's attorney at the WTO, Mark Mendel, said the passage of the legislation may actually help the nation with it's arguments against the United States before the WTO panel looking into the matter.
After prompting by Antigua and Barbuda, the WTO had ruled in 2005 that the United State's laws regarding online gambling violated trade policies established by the organization. The country had until April 2006 to change their laws to comply with the policies.
After missing the deadline, the United States refused to take any action stating they believe their laws are in compliance. Since then, Antigua and Barbuda has tried to negotiate with the United States to come to a compromise they could both be happy with.
Antigua and Barbuda eventually had to ask the WTO to again examine U.S. laws to see if the country was compliant. That investigation is currently underway. In the meantime, Antigua and Barbuda has continued talking to government officials in the United States to work on the issue.
A delegation headed by the Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Finance and the Economy Dr. L. Errol Cort was in Washington D.C. to meet with Congressional leaders and members of federal agencies to discuss the trade dispute the week before the UIGEA was passed as part of the port security bill. The group had just concluded their visit when the bill was passed.
Mendel said the country had already filed its first written submission to the WTO panel looking into the matter before the legislation was passed, and now they will make another submission adding the latest developments to their case.
The nation may also be getting much more support from online gaming sites. Sportingbet, Plc. chief executive Nigel Payne has been in Antigua since Tuesday to meet with authorities there to discuss the U.S. legislation. The company has expressed interest in bringing a WTO case against the U.S. as well.
Sportingbet, Plc. is a U.K. company and would need to go through the European Union to bring a case to the WTO, but it does have licenses in Antigua and Barbuda to serve its U.S. customers.