Resolution of ongoing online casino debate could aid Antigua and Barbuda recovery

  • Tiny Caribbean nation estimates cost of rebuilding to exceed that amount
  • Alleged dispute between US and Island Nation dates back 14 years

Following the devastation reaped by hurricane Irma in the Carribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda, authorities there are reportedly seeking a resolution to an alleged continuing dispute with the US over online gambling.

Antigua Barbuda online gambling
Antigua, English Harbour bay and beach

The dispute in question, reported last week by the Los Angeles Times, is said to date back to moves made by the US government more than 14 years ago to dissuade American nationals from gambling at online casino sites based offshore.

Antigua and Barbuda online casinos

In 2003, Antigua and Barbuda made a complaint to the World Trade Organization that these moves were discriminatory in nature by favouring some horse racing gambling sites over online casinos and other sports betting operations.

Four years later, the WTO agreed, ruling in favour of Antigua’s request and ordered that $21 million in damages, dated back to 2003, must be paid by the US annually.

In September this year, the Antigua and Barbuda Ambassador to the US, Sir Ronald Sanders, stood before the World Trade Organization’s Dispute Settlement Body to request that the US pay the money that it says is allegedly still owed.

It has been estimated that the embargo on online gambling has cost the duel island nation in the region of over $200 million in revenues since its instalment, with many now suggesting that this figure would go towards funding the hurricane relief effort.

A completely devastated island that needs rebuilding

Although the request is nothing new, the sheer scale of devastation this year, from loss of water supply, electricity and telecommunications, to the destruction of 95% its buildings as well as the emergency evacuation of all of Barbuda’s residents, has made it more pertinent.

Said Sanders: “Three weeks ago, the island of Barbuda, our second most populous island, was completely decimated by the Category 5 hurricane’s battering. My government was forced to declare the island a disaster and to evacuate all the residents to Antigua.

“For the first time in 300 years, there is not a single permanent resident on Barbuda. We are confronted with an estimated cost of more than $250 million to rebuild Barbuda and to resettle its inhabitants in their homeland. There would be no better time than now, for the United States to settle this long-running issue which mars an otherwise friendly relationship between our two countries.”

The last time the matter was discussed between the two nations, the US is reported to have accused Antigua and Barbuda of taking too much time considering a proposed settlement offer of just $2 million which was rejected out of hand by the islands who had spent more than that pursuing the case at hand.

Antigua, which back in 1994 became one of the first countries to license online casino sites, once boasted an online casino industry that at its peak employed 4,000 people and generated around $3.4 billion in annual revenues.

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