In what has become one of the most drawn out legal battles in poker history, the highly publicized Antigua/US World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute may finally have an end in sight. Borne out of the controversial legislation passed in the US Congress in 2006 in the guise of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act, Antigua has been battling with the US through the WTO seeking proper recompense for business damages that were done because of this legislation.
The small Caribbean island nation’s lawyer, Mark Mendel, recently said that the US might offer a settlement with Antigua and Barbuda as early as Monday of next week. In an address to the Antigua Sun newspaper this week, Mendel announced that the US is on a timetable to put forward a proposal for the settlement of the trade dispute and that the islanders are anxiously awaiting to see what they offer.
“I am assuming that if they [the US trade Representative] are going to be good to their word, that they will have a proposal. It will be either a proposal or no proposal by the end of the month,” Mendel said.
Antigua has already been exempted from trademarks and copyright restrictions as compensation for the discriminatory anti-online gambling legislation. This was granted to them by the WTO and is worth an annual sum of $21 million.
Mendel claimed that although Antigua has already received a controversial settlement from the WTO, the upcoming settlement is expected to address aspects of the trade dispute which deal with the United States’ continued failure to comply with the WTO’s ruling on access for Internet gaming operators.
The US settlement is also predicted to address Antigua and Barbuda’s claim that they need to be compensated for the US withdrawal from its commitment to provide market access under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
“Any settlement that we would do would be comprehensive. It would take in everything,” said Mendel. “These are (two separate issues) if we have to litigate them, but if we can settle something then it should all be settled in one go.”
Antigua and Barbuda filed a notice earlier this year at the WTO requesting arbitration against the United States. Perhaps next week all of their efforts towards reaching a fair compensation deal from the US will come to an end. In the meantime, the US will still face daunting obstacles like the European Union, who has also begun to take action against the discriminatory UIGEA legislation despite the trade sanctions offered to them for the same reasons as Antigua and Barbuda.