Post-Irma Antigua And Barbuda Claim They Need US Online Gambling Payments ASAP

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flag of Antigua and Barbuda
Just as states want to use online gambling to make up for gaps in their budgets, Antigua and Barbuda look to settle a trade dispute to recover from Hurricane Irma, the Los Angeles Times reported.

According to the Caribbean nation, they have lost $200 million from this unresolved conflict. That’s roughly four-fifths of what the rebuilding costs after the hurricane.

The U.S. did offer under $2 million to settle the dispute, according to Ronald Sanders, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the U.S.

The dispute over time

  • 1994 – Antigua licensed online casino sites; the campaign to prevent gambling sites began. Antiguan officials told the LA Times that the industry generated $3.4 billion annually in its heyday and employed 4,000 people.
  • 2003 – The Caribbean nation tried to get their losses back from the U.S., claiming the country’s anti-offshore gambling policies tanked their industry.
  • 2004 – Antigua and Barbuda brought the World Trade Organization in to help resolve the issue. WTO sided with the Caribbean nation. WTO ordered the U.S. to pay for the lost trade revenue: $21 million a year.
  • 2006 – U.S. crackdown on internet gambling reduced industry employment numbers to 300-400 people.
  • Today – That sum the WTO says the US owes is in excess of $200 million. The Antiguan economy sits at $1.5 billion.

“The U.S. by its own policy has actually destroyed a thriving industry in Antigua and Barbuda,” said Prime Minister Gaston Browne.

Trying to revive the gambling industry

Todd Tucker, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, said that the U.S. was in the right to not abide by the WTO decision. After all, the U.S. operates with its own regulatory structure and rules that the countries and legislatures agreed to.

He also told the LA Times that the financiers are the beneficiaries of bringing the industry back to Antigua, as per Antiguan authorities.

“Direct aid to the people of Antigua is a much better humanitarian solution.”

Given the situation, Browne still calls for payment. In regards to morality claims of what risks gambling posed in WTO filings by the U.S., Browne said the U.S. doesn’t have the “moral authority.”

“There’s more gambling in the United States than any other country on the planet,” Browne said. “Whether or not it takes place on the internet or in a casino or in a house, it’s gambling.”

Browne thinks the U.S. should pay the country without backlash. He said that the might of the U.S. should not overshadow the needs of a smaller state.

“There must be some equity in the system,” he said.

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