It’s rare that the United States loses a case in the World Trade Organization, but that’s exactly what happened thirteen years ago. The tiny state of Antigua and Barbuda filed a complaint with the WTO regarding the United States’ policy against online gambling websites. Shockingly enough, the small Caribbean country won.
Of course, it wasn’t that easy, as the United States filed an appeal, claiming it had the duty to protect its citizens from problematic gambling behavior. Neither Antigua and Barbuda nor the WTO accepted that justification, and the US was ordered to pay Antigua $21 million annually, or open up its markets to online gambling sites.
As we’ve seen, online gambling has been very slow to come to the US, with only a few states regulating it and a few more considering online poker and gaming bills. Sports betting is still completely off the agenda in the US.
The problem for the WTO and other countries that allow online and sports betting is that some places in the US allow it, notably Las Vegas for gambling on sports. Online casinos throughout the world have claimed this is discriminatory, where the US government allows some gambling for domestic companies but outlaws online offshore casino gambling.
The latest news to come out of Antigua is that the country is ready to accept an offer from the United States. This offer is less than the $21 million the US was ordered to pay originally, but still keeps the country closed to online casino operators.
But where the former administration of Antigua wanted all or nothing, the new administration is willing to accept the latest offer from America to end the conflict with the WTO. In essence, the United States can retain its hypocritical policy, but will not have to pay the full amount to Antigua that it was ordered to pay.
The details of the deal have not been made public, and the offer Antigua is considering is a counter-offer to a proposal the Caribbean country gave the US about a year ago. In all, America’s debt to Antigua is now over $200 million. Online gambling accounts for nearly one-third of the economic base of Antigua.