Antigua says WTO online gambling dispute with U.S. to be resolved in January

antigua-wto-online-gambling-resolutionAntigua expects to resolve its longstanding online gambling trade dispute with the US government in January, according to a government cabinet minister.

On Christmas Eve, Antigua Foreign Affairs Minister Charles Fernandez told local reporters that Antigua’s government had received and reviewed the US’ latest offer to resolve the World Trade Organization dispute. Fernandez declined to provide any specifics on the US offer.

According to the Antigua Observer, Fernandez suggested Antigua was leaning towards accepting the US offer, thereby paving the way for the matter to be resolved as early as January 2016. That would be nearly 13 years since Antigua filed its original WTO complaint over America’s protectionist online gambling policy.

Antigua accused the US of unfairly discriminating against nations that had licensed US-facing online gambling sites. The US claimed it had a responsibility to block international sites to reduce problem gambling behavior, but the WTO called that policy hypocritical given that the US allowed domestic operators to offer online horseracing wagers.

The WTO authorized Antigua to collect an annual $21m from the US to offset the impact of the US ban, but the US has so far not paid a penny of this accumulating debt. Antigua’s new Prime Minister Gaston Browne has made good-faith offers that would cut the US’ financial obligation in half, but while talks were said to be progressing, no tangible progress has been publicly disclosed.

Antigua’s previous administration had struck a more antagonistic stance in negotiating with the US government, but Browne took a far more conciliatory tone after his Labor party won the 2014 national election. It remains to be seen whether members of the former ruling United Progressive Party will attempt to undermine support for any deal Browne’s negotiators manage to achieve.