The Antiguan Minister for Finance and the Economy, the Honourable Harold Lovell, has expressed his disappointment in what he claims is "...the latest effort by the American authorities to shut off competition in remote gaming in violation of International law." In a statement Tuesday, the minister said: “I am concerned that at this point in time United States authorities continue to prosecute non-domestic suppliers of remote gaming services in clear contravention of International law.
"I am not aware of any other situation where a member of the World Trade Organisation has subjected persons to criminal prosecution under circumstances where the WTO has expressly ruled that to do so is in breach of an International treaty.”
Antigua’s legal counsel in its dispute with the US at the WTO, Mark Mendel, commented: “The WTO ruled that these kinds of laws criminalizing the provision of remote gaming services are contrary to the obligations of the United States under the WTO agreements.
"The United States, being a very heavy user of the WTO rules to its own benefit, simply cannot continue to prosecute persons for engaging in legitimate International commerce.”
Mendel further noted: “What the United States has attempted to cloak as a moral issue is now clearly nothing but economic protectionism at its worst.
"Rather than engaging with Antigua and the world gaming community to reach a reasonable accommodation on this relatively new but now globalised form of economic commerce, the United States has instead determined to protect its domestic gaming interests regardless of International legal obligations.
"This is very hard to reconcile not only with its pronouncements regarding the imperative of other countries to strictly observe their WTO trade obligations but also with stated official United States government policy of adherence to the rule of law.”
In a protracted dispute process, Antigua won its dispute over online gambling in the WTO some years ago. Since then the islanders have spent considerable time and effort trying to reach a compromise with American authorities that would recognise the legitimacy conferred by the WTO judgement with respect to Antiguan remote gaming services.
The government's statement concludes: "Last weeks’ indictments and other recent developments would seem to indicate that the United States is still unwilling or unable to tackle the issue of offshore remote gaming services in a mature and legally compliant fashion.
“At this time we are examining all of the options we have against the United States as a result of the WTO decision. We are confident that the WTO rulings have significant strength and we are now looking into ways to capitalise on that in order to achieve our objectives.”
In a parting shot, Mendel comments: “Given the time that has been spent by the Antiguan government on sincere attempts to negotiate a reasonable settlement with the United States, and the very meagre results that have come of those discussions, it might be time for Antigua to go back to the WTO and compel American compliance with the rulings that this very small country fought so hard for and deserves to see implemented.”
Source: InfoPowa News