When Congress passed the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) last fall, they created a mouse that roars in the Caribbean. Antigua and Barbuda asked the World Trade Organization earlier this week to authorize $3.4 Billion USD in commercial sanctions against the US for failing to comply with WTO treaties and rulings.
The US government has acknowledged that the UIGEA was ruled illegal by the WTO, but maintains that Antigua and Barbuda has no recourse to retaliate. "The level sought by Antigua and Barbuda is several times higher than Antigua and Barbuda's annual gross domestic product of all goods and services," said US trade attorney Juan Millan.
The heart of the WTO's argument against the UIGEA is not the ban on internet gambling, but rather the exemptions the law created for online horse betting. The WTO has ruled several times that the US may outlaw internet gambling if it sees fit, but it cannot outlaw internet gambling from other nations while allowing US-based companies to accept wagers on horse racing, dog racing and internet lotteries.
Online gambling is one of Antigua and Barbuda's largest industries, employing over 1,000 people and generating over $130 Million each year for the tiny island nation. This industry saw revenues decline dramatically as the UIGEA caused streams of recreational gamblers in the US to dry up. The United States accounts for nearly 50% of the world's internet gamblers.
In another in a series of arrogant statements from the US government, the US has told the WTO that it is in the process of rewriting its agreement with the WTO under a 1994 treaty, to remove online gambling from the agreement, some 13 years after the fact.