by Natlie S. Fleming
Former Prime Minister Lester Bird said the ruling by
the World Trade Organisation (WTO) is a "cosmetic one"
for the twin -island destination describing it as
Bird begged to differ with reports that the country
had won the Internet gaming case against the WTO.
"You cannot implement anything or prevent the US
Congress or otherwise from protecting itself from
Internet gaming from overseas. So in fact, we have lost
the essence of the case and now when you add that to the
fact that Income Tax has now been re-introduced in
Antigua & Barbuda - the country is no longer a tax
haven. And the reality is our offshore gaming industry
has just now been wiped out and decimated."
Antigua & Barbuda's Finance Minster Dr. Errol
Cort yesterday described the ruling of the WTO as an
"important one" and a victory for Antigua & Barbuda
noting employment in the gaming industry would see an
The former prime minister has a different view.
"The reality is we substantively lost the case even
though cosmetically it appears that they have ruled that
the US did say it would adhere to GATT rules, but they
did not go further to say that the US is stopped from
preventing the things from coming in and they did not
indicate that the US Congress can be prevented from
passing the laws to block it because on the basis of
good order and morality and the protection of its own
industry they did not make any findings or determination
that must be done.
"Now if that is not a loss I don"t know what is
because the US is about to pass a law to prevent
offshore gaming from going on so we have substantively
lost the case.
"Effectively, the US has won the case and they will
not be forced or directed by the WTO to permit Antigua
& Barbuda or any other jurisdiction to allow
Internet gaming from offshore to come into the United
"And so although on a general principle they have
indicated that US did in fact agree to have GATT rule
apply, even though the rules may apply it does not take
away the right of the US on the basis of morality etc.,
to protect its people from the offshore gaming," Bird
"Now I just wish to say that had they not gotten into
an attempt to settle this dispute with the US and take
the initial win we would not have had this situation
because they would have an opportunity to develop all
these new arguments that they developed.
"We should have gone after them and this notion of
speaking with low level people instead of carrying out
what the WTO had ruled originally, it allowed the United
States to garner support and also to be able to create
the new arguments about the morality."