ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Antigua & Barbuda has just upped the ante in the ongoing online gaming row with the United States, pursuing punitive damages from the international superpower.
Minister of Finance, Harold Lovell, disclosed in an interview with an international media organisation Sunday that the nation is now prepared to collect on intellectual property and commercial services, levied against the US by the World Trade Organisation in 2007.
Although Lovell said it is not Antigua & Barbuda’s intention to have a “fight” with the United States, it now seems the gloves are on with the minister saying the “time has come.”
Previously, government attempted to revive negotiations with the United States, that had come to a standstill, by writing a letter to the World Trade Organisation’s (WTO) Dispute Settlement Body in hopes of bringing the US back to the bargaining table.
Taking into account the current delicate fiscal situation on island, Lovell said the WTO matter had “our backs pushed right up against the wall.”
He said the nation has been “driven over our fiscal cliff” and the matter will be broached at the next WTO meeting in Geneva, on December 17.
Almost 10 years ago, Antigua & Barbuda initiated a dispute claim against the US. At that time, the US implemented laws prohibiting its citizens from placing online gambling bets – a billion dollar industry on island. Around half of the world’s online gamblers are based in the US.
In 2007, the twin-island nation applied to the WTO to impose sanctions in the amount of $3 billion a year in efforts to force the US to comply with the verdict.
Although the WTO ruled in Antigua & Barbuda’ favour, the organisation only imposed sanctions of $21 million per year. Today, the nation could legally claim upwards of $126 million in penalties from the US.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)