The battle has been going on for more than a decade. Antigua and Barbuda felt that the United States owed money to the island nation for an online gaming case. The World Trade Organization even took on the case and ruled that the US violated Antigua and Barbuda’s rights in 2005. But the US government has since refused to acknowledge the ruling or pay the money owed.
Antigua and Barbuda has had enough.
History of the Feud
When online gambling companies started operating in the 1990s, many of them set up their servers through the government of Antigua and Barbuda. By 2000, the country was taking in $1.7 billion, and that number climbed to nearly $2.4 billion in 2001. The gaming industry also employed more than 1,000 people and became an integral part of the country’s economy.
Despite the two nations having signed an online trade agreement, the US began prosecuting executives of the online gaming companies based in the Caribbean, and Antigua and Barbuda began to feel the pain from losing the businesses that were closing, especially after Congress passed the 2006 Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and began prosecuting companies under that law. The small nation took its complaints to the World Trade Organization under which the original agreements were signed.
While the US claimed that it didn’t owe Antigua and Barbuda any damages for the lost revenue, the WTO declared that to be a false assertion and ruled that US actions severely impacted – and would continue to impact – the small nation’s economic stability. Antigua and Barbuda claimed that the inability to offer services like online gambling and sports betting to US customers dramatically hurt the country, and the WTO agreed in the amount of $21 million.
That was in 2004. By 2006, the US failed to acknowledge any wrongdoing, so the WTO Dispute Panel ruled that the US failed to comply. That meant that Antigua had the right to impose trade sanctions against the US. They began to do just that, ultimately suspending annual payments to the US for intellectual property rights for American-copyrighted and trademarked products. The payments added up to several billion dollars per year.
US Ignores Rulings
The US continued to ignore rulings and pleas from the WTO and Antigua and Barbuda. Talks among government representatives of both nations broke down each year when the US refused to discuss the payments. And the island nation is tired of begging for money that is rightfully owed to them.
The Antigua and Barbuda ambassador in Washington, D.C., Ronald Sanders, has been instructed to renew negotiations as soon as possible. Without an “expeditious settlement” from the US, the exhausted nation claims it will suspend protections of US intellectual property rights.
According to Prime Minister Gaston Browne, the situation has “drawn on for too long to the severe disadvantage of the people of Antigua and Barbuda. It must now be resolved, and we are prepared to pursue the remedies as authorized by the WTP in the interest of fairness.” The current amount owed, according to Browne, is more than $200 million, and recent proposals by American officials for settlements are “regrettably paltry.” Meanwhile, he said, “The US benefitted by hundreds of millions of dollars from penalties and fines derived from prosecuting internet gaming operators who were located in Antigua and Barbuda.”
While most of the dispute has been handled behind closed doors for years, Browne recently chose to make the citizens of Antigua and Barbuda more aware of them by discussing it all in a radio and television broadcast. He explained the entire history of the dispute and committed to making another effort, though it must be met with seriousness from US officials.
“We will make further efforts to negotiate an acceptable solution with the US, but, like every other citizen and resident of our nation, our patience is wearing then,” said Browne.