Rumor Has it that U.S. and Antiguan Trade Reps Have Reached a Settlement

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
December 30, 2008

               The U.S. has been involved in negotiations with Antigua and the World Trade Organization, in Antigua’s attempt to collect on a $21 million annual settlement. The fine was levied as the result of U.S. bans on offshore internet casino gambling, which the WTO ultimately decided were not only a display of protectionism, but a violation of free trade and the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).

                Since the settlement was reached, however, the U.S. has failed to pay out on a number of given deadlines. Antiguan Finance Minister, Dr. Errol Cort, has asked that Antigua be patient with the U.S. Cort noted in fall that negotiations with the WTO might continue into the next year. Rumor has it that a deal has been reached with US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

                An article in the Salt Lake City Tribune says that the U.S. is believed to have been relieved of the $21 million per year settlement, for reasons that are classified as a national security issue.  Many are wondering what the U.S. has offered in lieu of the ban of online casinos.

                One conclusion has been that the U.S. might place a military base on Antigua, to create hundreds of jobs as well as stable revenue flow for the nation. If this is true, the outlook is grim for the future of online casino gambling in the U.S. The Department of Justice continues to lash out at offshore casino websites, and the installment of a military base essentially means that the U.S. will go to drastic measures before admitting fault for discriminating against overseas gambling establishments.

                Anti-gamblers are concerned about the potential of a military base Antigua. The worry stems from the Philippines, where decades of an U.S. military base have resulted in black markets, drug-dealing, illegal gambling and prostitution.

                Peter Riggs for the Forum on Democracy and Trade is disturbed to find that the terms of the agreement have been kept a secret. Riggs’ suspicion is that, rather than a military base, the agreement involved research and development services, as well as associated tax credits, affecting the way states do business.

                “This is potentially a very big deal,” said Riggs. “We were stunned that they classified it as national security and got away with it.”

                WTO negotiations do not stop with Antigua. The European Union is slated next on the list, with much heavier claims. The first online gambling website was launched in 1995. Now, more than 2,000 offshore sites are in operation, and will soon prove a difficult industry for the U.S. to combat.

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