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Antigua Claims US Poker Bill Re-Writes History

Officials in the Antigua government are claiming that clauses in the Reid-Kyl online poker bill attempt to re-write history while also speaking out about the damage that such a bill could cause the Caribbean nation.

Many legal analysts and politicians on Antigua claim that sections of the bill would cause more harm to their country and work in opposition to the ruling that the World Trade Organization made in the small country's favor against the US.

Mark Mendel, a lawyer involved in the dispute between Antigua and the US said that the bill would lock his country out of the industry.

“The way that they designed the bill is, to get a license you have to be a land-based casino operator already. There’s no way the Antiguans would able to get a license under this bill,” Mendel said. “What the bill says is that your servers and whatever else you need to physically run the business, it has to be located in the United States.”

If the bill were passed, a provision exists that requires US Trade Representatives would need to resolve any WTO dispute with Antigua within 180 days. If those negotiations fail, the US would be forced to more to arbitration with the WTO to resolve the dispute.

Harold Lovell, Antigua's Minister of Finance said that while he is happy to see a time frame to settle the dispute, he would prefer to see a settlement made before the bill is put into law.

“Good faith negotiation requires much more adherence to international law than this legislation is offering. Because a proper, comprehensive settlement will likely involve a legislative component,” Lovell said "It would seem to us that a settlement prior to adoption of legislation, which then incorporated the terms of the settlement, would be the wiser and more appropriate course of action.”

In 2007 the WTO ruled that the US was in violation of various international treaties by not allowing online gambling operators to access the US gambling market. The dispute was opened because of the passage of the US Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. Despite this ruling, the US has not actively worked to resolve the issue with Antigua, causing friction between the two countries.

Minister Lovell says that the Reid-Kyl bill claims that the US was never in the wrong, and therefore mis-represents the facts. “Given that the US has been immersed in a trade dispute for the last decade with Antigua and Barbuda, the evidence is there for all to see that remote gaming was always at issue. This is nothing short of legislating historical fiction,” he said.

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