U.S. accused of flaunting WTO ruling

Antigua on Tuesday accused the United States of flaunting a World Trade Organization ruling that deemed unfair U.S. efforts to restrict Americans from using Internet gambling sites based in the Caribbean island.

Finance Minister Errol Cort said pending U.S. legislation on online betting would make it harder for Antigua gambling companies to do business with U.S. citizens.

Antigua took the dispute to a WTO panel, which ruled that the U.S. legislation would violate global trade rules. The deadline for the U.S. government’s compliance passed Monday.

„The deadline has come and passed and the United States has made no effort toward compliance,“ Cort said, adding that the U.S. legislation would „further entrench the discriminatory nature of the United States‘ approach to cross-border gambling.“

Cort said U.S. trade officials have „rebuffed every offer Antigua and Barbuda has made to engage the United States in an attempt to work out a reasonable resolution of this dispute.“

U.S. trade officials weren’t immediately available for comment.

The United States contends that Internet gambling should be prohibited because it violates some U.S. state laws. Antigua says the offshore industry is a lucrative source of revenue and provides hundreds of islanders.

Cort said Antigua was „exploring all available options“ to make the U.S. comply with the WTO ruling but conceded that settling the dispute would be „extremely challenging“ given Antigua’s lack of economic and political clout.

Some experts have warned Internet gambling could expose small Caribbean nations to organized crime, money laundering and other illegal activity, but Cort said Antigua has imposed strict laws to regulate the practice.

„While the United States flaunts the decision of the WTO in our case and attempts to shore up its own domestic monopoly on gambling and betting services, Antigua and Barbuda wants to point out that we have a highly regulated gaming industry in our country,“ Cort said.

No U.S. federal law prohibits gambling, which is regulated by state law. In many states, gambling is banned or permitted with restrictions.