On Monday, Antigua and Barbuda Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams announced that legislation will soon be introduced that will allow his country to collect on the judgment awarded to it by the World Trade Organization (WTO) in response to the United States’ negative stance on internet poker years ago.
Antigua and Barbuda has been issuing online gambling licenses since the mid-1990’s (you didn’t even realize online gambling had been around that long, did you?). In 2003, the country filed a complaint with the WTO in regards to the United States preventing U.S. residents from playing online poker and other internet gambling, specifically citing the Wire Act and two other statutes. The U.S. claimed that the various prohibitions were necessary to protect the public health, but the WTO said, “well what about horse racing then, huh?”
With that gotcha, the WTO was able to say that U.S. gambling laws did were discriminatory, not applied equally to domestic and foreign companies.
Antigua told the United States that it wanted $3.4 billion in compensation, but the U.S. responded with a classic negotiating tactic, coming back with a counter-offer of just $500,000. Finally, in 2007, the WTO ruled that Antigua and Barbuda could implement a plan (devised by the country) to not enforce U.S. copyright and patent protections and, in turn, profit to the tune of $21 million a year.
Not surprisingly, Antigua and Barbuda have not been able to get anything from the U.S. in the years since.
The country’s representative to the World Trade organization recently said Antigua would submit a plan for collecting what is owed to it, but it has yet to do so.
In his annual “throne speech” last week, Sir Williams brought up the topic of the U.S. internet gambling dispute:
One of the greatest challenges facing my country’s diplomacy is the resistance which Antigua and Barbuda has encountered from its great friend and neighbour, the USA, in the outstanding WTO matter. Having successfully prosecuted our case at the World Trade Organization more than 12 years ago, and having been awarded US $21,000,000 (twenty-one million United States dollars) annually by the world body, getting the USA to make good on its obligations has been impossible. For more than 30 months, my Government has tried to get the USA to come to a meaningful settlement.
“….it is the intention of my Government to apply the remedies permitted by the WTO,” he continued. “It is my Government’s intention to proceed to Parliament to adopt legislation consistent with the WTO ruling, allowing Antigua and Barbuda to nullify US copyright protections and to benefit from so doing.”
So, nothing specific yet. After that, Sir Williams showed that he either had a very, very bad read on the upcoming Trump Administration or he was…oh, I don’t know:
The USA is a very powerful and wealthy state, capable of inflicting harm. My Government believes that the new administration that is about to take office will recognize the lawfulness and justness of our actions and will quickly settle the differences that have kept our negotiators apart. The USA would not turn to intimidation and revenge.