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Dispute: US and Antigua Hold 'Side Meeting'

There may be potential for some progress to be made in the ongoing and deadlocked online gaming dispute between Antigua & Barbuda and the US.

It comes after talks in Washington D.C. between the Caribbean nation’s Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer and US Vice President Joe Biden in what was billed as a ‘side meeting’ following a recent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) meeting in Trinidad & Tobago. The Antiguan Prime Minister raised the issue of the long-running World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute at the CARICOM meeting, which was said to have led to the subsequent meeting in Washington.

Mr Spencer said he believed the meeting with Mr Biden was constructive and that he hoped it would help bring some much needed progress to the long running dispute. “I came away from the meeting feeling more encouraged than I have before,” he said. “I think we were able to use the opportunity of this meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden to bring our case more sharply into focus with the US administration and to gain momentum for a final settlement.”

In 2007, a panel of arbitrators at the WTO ruled in favour of Antigua and Barbuda’s bid to impose sanctions on the US following its barring of financial institutions from processing online payments to gaming companies outside the country.

The move adversely impacted the country of the 82,000 people, whose economy largely consisted of online poker and gaming companies, as well as companies that relied on their business, such as call centres. The country was also adversely affected by the infamous Black Friday in 2011, which led to a number of online poker companies, and businesses associated with online poker to shut their doors.

As part of the 2007 ruling, the WTO gave Antigua and Barbuda the right to target US services, trademarks and copyrights in retaliation to the prohibition up to a limit of $21 million per year. This was far shorter than the country’s original desired amount of $3.4 billion.

The talks between Prime Minister Spencer and Vice President Biden have rightly led to sentiments that there is potential for future progress to be made. However, it is questionable whether Antigua would gain the prominence it once had as a global online gaming base even if a resolution occurred.

It is common knowledge in most of the poker community that online poker has recently been regulated in some US states, such as Nevada and New Jersey. Other states also currently have bills in their legislatures that, if passed, would regulate online poker and other such games within their borders.

A federal bill that seeks to regulate online poker was introduced in Congress just last week. While there have been predictions that the bill will not go far, it is a signal of a general positive trend towards online poker in the country.

This has seen a number of online poker companies reintroduce their services into states like Nevada as they seek to build a thriving online gaming industry in the new climate. In the face of this, Antigua may not be as appealing to those companies in setting up operations as it once was.



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