The government for the small Caribbean nation of Antigua And Barbuda has been at odds with the United States regarding online gambling and sportsbetting since the late 1990s but it is now reportedly hopeful of working with the incoming administration of Donald Trump to help end the decades-long battle.
According to a report from the Jamaica Observer newspaper, Sir Rodney Williams, Governor-General for the former British colony, also used his traditional throne speech as part of the opening of Parliament on Monday to reveal that Prime Minister Gaston Browne is hopeful of enacting legislation this year that will deal with the long-running matter.
The struggle can trace its roots back to 1997 when United States law enforcement officials began charging individuals including several Antiguans for offering online betting services to their American consumers. These indictments were subsequently backed up by efforts to prevent local operators from using financial tools such as credit cards.
Antigua And Barbuda felt that this was protectionist as the United States permitted its domestic horseracing industry to offer interstate online betting services and subsequently brought the matter before the World Trade Organization. The international trade body agreed with the small Caribbean country and in 2003 ordered its giant opposite to pay $21 million a year until it either scrapped its domestic Internet sportsbetting industry or allowed Antigua-licensed sites access to its market. This penalty has now reportedly reached over $250 million without one penny ever being handed over.
Backed up by a judgment from the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body that the United States’ trade policies regarding online gambling and sportsbetting were a violation of its obligations under the General Agreement On Trade And Services, November saw the twin-island nation threaten to launch a website offering royalty-free downloads of American intellectual property including books, films, television programs and music unless Washington, DC, complied with the previous Geneva ruling by the end of the year.
In his address to legislators, Williams reportedly acknowledged that the United States “is a very powerful and wealthy state capable of inflicting harm” but that he was hopeful the nation “would not turn to intimidation and revenge”.
“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,” Williams reportedly told Parliamentarians. “It is my government’s intention to proceed to Parliament to adopt legislation consistent with the World Trade Organization ruling, allowing Antigua And Barbuda to nullify United States copyright protections and to benefit from so doing.”