Antigua Defends Gambling Sanctions

St. John’s – Antigua and Barbuda’s finance minister on Friday defended his nation’s bid to impose USD 3.4 billion in trade sanctions against the United States, which it accuses of ignoring a World Trade Organization ruling against a U.S. online betting ban.

Finance Minister L. Errol Cort dismissed criticism of Antigua’s plan to target U.S. trademarks with USD 3.4 billion in penalties every year, until the United States applies its online and offshore betting ban more uniformly or allows Americans to place bets with international gambling businesses.

Antigua, a Caribbean nation of 70,000 inhabitants, was slammed by a series of hurricane in the late 1990s, has since promoted electronic commerce, including online gaming, in a bid to ease its dependency on tourism.

The U.S. Congress last year barred American banks and credit card companies from processing online gambling payments, denying international gaming businesses access to the lucrative U.S. market – the largest in a USD 15.5 billion global online betting industry.

The WTO last December upheld Washington’s right to prevent offshore gambling, but said it was illegal for the United States to target offshore casinos and online gambling without applying the same rules to American operators of off-track horse and dog race betting.

After that ruling, Washington declared its intention to explicitly remove Internet gambling from its WTO treaty obligations. Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Japan, Macau and the 27-nation European Union have joined Antigua in filing a separate compensation claim as a result.