Last week, just days after a settlement was reached in a dispute between the United States vs. Canada, Japan and Europe involving the recently enacted UIGEA, the WTO awarded the Caribbean nation of Antigua $21 Million in compensation money to be paid for by the United States. Antigua has been seeking $3.44 billion in compensation during this long-running battle concerning being shut out of the U.S. online gambling market.
Antigua is poorly satisfied as it was expecting a compensation award closer to $1 billion from the WTO’s disputes body. All the while, the United States claimed the compensation package should be no more than $500,000. Despite the large difference between what the U.S. claimed and the actual compensation awarded, the U.S. is very pleased that the award is over 100 times lower than what Antigua was seeking.
The World Trade Organization also gave Antigua permission to seek their compensation in the form of copyright infringement which would give them free reign on United States movies, music and software, essentially pirating our entertainment industry.
The most recent dispute started when Antigua spoke up and claimed it would suffer great economic losses as a result of the United States ban on Internet gambling. Like David to Goliath, Antigua hit the United States with blow after blow. One of the biggest Antiguan victories was in 2005 when the WTO ruled that United States law was discriminating against foreign companies. At the time the U.S. allowed only domestic companies the ability to provide online horse-race gambling services. Had it not been for Congress’s further attempts to restrict these measures (enacting UIGEA), the former British colony was hoping to use this victory to tap into the U.S. gambling market.
Other countries like Japan, Canada and the European Union may soon be following Antigua’s lead in seeking compensation for being locked out of the U.S. online gambling market. If the U.S. doesn’t whip up some sort of satisfying solution soon it may find itself in the middle of yet more litigation at the WTO brought on by these additional countries.
As of late, major concern has developed over the U.S.’s disregard for WTO rules. In 2005 after they lost their case concerning foreign horse-race gambling services, the United States used a WTO rule that allowed them to revise their trade obligations, essentially giving the WTO less jurisdiction over the matter. Nevertheless, if a tiny Caribbean island called Antigua has the courage to step up to the plate, more are sure to follow.