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Negotiations Ongoing In US-Antigua Online Gambling Dispute

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The political battle in Antigua and Barbuda was fired up this week when the leader of one party alleged that the Baldwin Spencer administration had reached an online gambling settlement with the US. The party in control, however, denied the claim.

Negotiations have been taking place between the US and Antigua and Barbuda. The negotiations center on a 2007 World Trade Organization ruling that awarded Antigua and Barbuda $21 million from the US for the countries non-compliance in online gambling prohibition.

The US has not taken the WTO ruling seriously in recent years. The money was not paid to Antigua and Barbuda, forcing the country to enter into negotiations to try and recoup some money from the funds that were lost when the US enacted an anti-online gambling law back in 2006.

Antigua Labour Party Chairman and Deputy Leader Gaston Browne took to the airwaves on Tuesday and declared that the current administration had reached a deal for $10 million. In addition, Browne claimed that the government agreed to prohibit online gambling in the future.

Finance Minister Harold Lovell has vehemently denied that a settlement has been reached. Lovell did acknowledge that negotiations are taking place between the two countries. If Antigua and Barbuda did agree to criminalize online gambling, thousands of jobs would be lost and the economy would suffer greatly.

"We have not accepted any offers that have been put on the table," said Lovell. "Before we accept any offers that are placed on the table we would consult with the relevant parties here in Antigua and Barbuda." Lovell went on to say that the government would determine the impact of any decision before a final agreement was reached.

The US may have a hard time convincing Antigua and Barbuda to ban Internet gambling when they have lawmakers in their own country looking to overturn the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act. It would be a slap in the face to Antigua and Barbuda should the US force criminalization of an activity that could be regulated in the US in the coming years.

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