Despite what seems to be a clear-cut victory by
Antigua & Barbuda over the US at the Appellate Body
of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), early indications
are that the woes of the locally-based Internet gaming
companies are not yet over.
There are signs that the US is as yet far from ready
to concede victory. And herein lies the crux of the
matter. If the US decides to continue to play hardball,
how does tiny, inconsequential Antigua & Barbuda
force the world's sole superpower to co-operate with the
The US, acting individually and through the
Organisation for Economic Co-operation & Development
(OECD) and Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has in
the past established crippling economic sanctions
against Antigua & Barbuda, to compel corrective
action to counter situations it deemed inimical to its
The US has in the past invoked the very WTO
regulations to visit virtual destruction on the hitherto
thriving Windward Islands banana industry, to protect
the interests of its own Chiquita banana interests.
As reported elsewhere in this paper, Antigua &
Barbuda has now scored a second unambiguous victory
against the US in the fight to preserve our Internet
gaming industry. The industry is worth an estimated $50
to $75 million, provides hundreds of jobs for our
computer literate youth and represents a vital
diversification effort for our tourism dependent
The WTO Appellate Body has recommended that the
Dispute Settlement Body request the US to bring the
offending legislative measures, referred to in the
relevant reports, into conformity with US obligations
under the General Agreement on Trade in Services.
The measures had the effect of preventing US banks
and credit card companies from facilitating transactions
with the gaming companies in Antigua, thereby
effectively starving them from their largest
international market and threatening them with economic
But even as Antigua & Barbuda was yesterday
celebrating victory at the US trade officials were
claiming that the WTO ruling supported their argument
that the limitations could remain in place.
The WTO in fact ruled inter alia that cross border
gaming services could be singled out for special
treatment, at variance with treatment of other services
for which GATS obligations are in effect.
This country's legal counsel Mark Mendel was
justifiably jubilant, declaring "At the end of the day,
Antigua continues to win. It is clear-cut. We won on all
the major points."
Not so says an unidentified US trade official. "This
is effectively a win for the United States, as it seems
to say that if we tighten US Internet gambling
restrictions, we'll be fine."
We have checked through the preliminary finding of
the Appellate Body, and must confess to being at a loss
as to the basis for such a bizarre conclusion.
The only logical interpretation of this latest
Antigua & Barbuda victory is that the US is in
violation of the rules of international trade, which it
was instrumental in establishing, and must rectify its
offending legislation and desist from penalising its
corporations for conducting legitimate business with
this country's Internet gaming community.
If the US fails to act as directed by the WTO, then
the world order as it relates to cross border trade will
have been gravely undermined and US integrity,
particularly in its dealings with the developing world,
We can only hope on due reflection, US trade
officials will see the error of their initial
pronouncements, bite the US gambling lobby bullet, and
do the right thing.