The Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda says he is hopeful that meetings to be held this weekend with members of the U.S. Congress, will help to find a resolution to the ongoing battle with the United States over the UIGEA.
Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer discussed the issue with the Representative from New York, Charles Rangel, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, and three other Congressional Black Caucus members Sunday.
"We're hoping that coming out of this dialogue here, Charlie Rangel would have a better and greater appreciation of Antigua and Barbuda's position," Spencer said.
Antigua is accusing the U.S. of almost putting its gaming industry out of business by banning Americans from placing bets online.
The UIGEA, which prohibited credit card companies and US banks from processing any payments made to offshore and online gambling sites, went into effect in October 2006. Antigua says the U.S. Congress is denying not only their country, but the international gaming industry's as well, access to the very profitable U.S. market.
Antigua has filed a complaint with the WTO, seeking 3.4 billion in compensation from the U.S. for trade sanctions. Up until the UIGEA was passed, the tiny nation of Antigua and Barbuda found online gaming sites were the key to alleviating their economic dependency on tourism.
"I think my country is wrong in trying to change the rules of the WTO," Rangel told local reporters. "Your great nation and ours will have to negotiate those differences in terms of equity and fairness." He also added, "I worry that Washington may have overstepped its authority," referring to the ongoing dispute.
Last December the WTO agreed with Washington's right to prevent offshore gambling. They did however admonish the US for allowing dog race and off-track horse betting, while banning online wagering. They want the US to apply the rules fairly and evenly to all venues of gambling, whether offline or online.