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The increased push by legislators in the United States to legalise online gambling within the country’s own borders could help the tiny Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda in its long-running World Trade Organisation (WTO) dispute.
Antigua filed a complaint with the WTO against the United States in 2003 for violations of its commitments under the General Agreement on Trade and Services (GATS) in not allowing it to provide online gaming services to players based in America.
In a subsequent ruling, the international organisation found in the Caribbean nation’s favour but the dispute lingers with Antigua claiming that it is owed $3.4bn per year in damages for being denied access to the United States iGaming market. In a later move, the WTO authorised Antigua to violate $21m per year in intellectual property although both sides had agreed to seek a fair settlement.
“This is of considerable benefit to us [because] it vindicates what we have said all along,” Mark Mendel, a lawyer working on behalf of Antigua, said to local and regional media during taping for Sunday evening’s Media Roundtable programme on ABS.
Mendel is serving as lead counsel for the tiny nation in its dispute with the United States and revealed that federal legislation introduced last month by Congressman Peter King, The Internet Gambling Regulation, Consumer Protection and Enforcement Act of 2013, could see online gambling legalised nation-wide while permitting individual states such as New Jersey, Delaware and Nevada to continue offering these types of services.
“Now that they are moving in that direction themselves, forcefully; that pretty much completely takes away their formal defence at the WTO,” said the Ireland-based attorney.
A recent investigation by noted financial service firm Morgan Stanley predicted that the online gambling industry in the United States will be worth $9.3bn by 2020, which would top the combined earnings in 2012 of Las Vegas and Atlantic City. Mendel declared that such revelations have also compelled the international community including such nations as Venezuela, China and Brazil to rally behind Antigua’s call for an equitable resolution to the matter.
“Before we had no support, now we have a lot,” said Mendel.
“Different countries [are] standing up and telling the Americans that they have to comply with the rulings and negotiate with us fairly. I think it has made a very big difference in that regard.”