The latest salvo in the bitter trade dispute between the tiny nation of Antigua & Barbuda and the United States was fired last week when the World Trade Organization, responding to a request by the Caribbean nation, set up an arbitration board to analyze whether the U. S. is complying with the rulings of the international trade organization.
Back in 2004, the World Trade Organization ruled that the current U. S. administration was infringing on the trade rights of Antigua where it comes to online gaming and poker. Antigua stated at the time that the United States' stance towards online gaming infringed on their rights to free trade and wanted sanctions against or allowance by the U. S. of the right of Antigua to continue their trade unrestricted. Of course, the U. S. administration contended (by invoking the Wire Act of 1961) that online gaming is illegal in this country and, hence, there were no violations of WTO bylaws, which both the U. S. and Antigua have signed on to and are members of.
After deliberation, the WTO ruled in favor of Antigua and ordered the U. S. to allow for the free flow of this industry. Since then, however, the United States has only ratcheted up the action to preventing online gaming from being allowed in this country. Currently legislation is pending that would put heavy restrictions on financial transactions and force ISPs to monitor the activities of its members. The U. S. has also failed to respond to the decision of the WTO, forcing Antigua to take this next step.
The WTO has announced that an arbitration committee has been formed to look at whether the United States is complying with the ruling and, if the U. S. isn't coming into accord with the trade organization's ruling, what actions can be taken against them. Under Article 21 of the WTO bylaws, a three person arbitration board started on Monday reviewing all pertinent information at hand and has ninety days to issue their ruling.
For their part, the government of Antigua is simply seeking an amicable resolution to the matter. The Antigua Minister of Finance and the Economy, Dr. Errol Cort, is confident that Antigua will be able to present a solid case that the U. S. hasn't complied with the ruling. He also expressed, however, that he hoped that there could be some middle ground found that would not only allow the citizens of the U. S. to participate in the online gaming world but would also ensure the survival of the industry in Antigua, where the online gaming world employs much of the island nation's population.
Since much of the world recognizes online gaming and poker as a legitimate enterprise, the U. S. administration would be well advised to reexamine their actions. As a member of a world alliance such as the WTO, you can't pick and choose which rules you want to follow…you have to take all decisions and adjust accordingly. Although this administration currently would like the issue to go away, perhaps this is one of those disputes that, once resolved, can open the doors to the online gaming world in the United States. As it won't be until later this year (as late as December, perhaps) until we learn the outcome of the latest actions in the WTO's halls, however, we'll have to keep an eye on the actions and what the U. S. government will do once the rulings are handed out.
Ed Note: Play at Paradise Poker, where no arbitration is necessary.