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Antiguan Attorney Calls For an End to U.S. Economic Warfare

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
January 24, 2009

               Antigua’s attempt to collect on a $21 million settlement ruled by the World Trade Organization has continued to produce no results, although negotiations have resumed this week with U.S. Trade Representatives. While Antiguan Finance Minister, Dr. Errol Cort has repeatedly asked that his people be patient in waiting for the settlement, the country’s economy is in turmoil. The lead attorney in the WTO dispute, Mark Mendel, has finally spoken out.

                It has become increasingly more difficult to reach Mr. Mendel, however, he agreed to an exclusive interview with where he expressed his growing discontent with U.S. trade negotiations. Mendel says he will continue negotiations until he feels that no results can come from it. Because the U.S. has repeatedly failed to pay its debts, however given many deadlines, he suggests that the nation open some online casinos to U.S. players – while not providing full access – until the settlement is paid.

                Mendel also believes that because of the expansion of online casino gambling offshore, further disputes with the WTO would lead to larger settlement rulings. “It has only gotten clearer that the United States does not prohibit remote gambling, per se, and that is has erected trade barriers against countries to protect its domestic markets. The UIGEA would never pass a review at the WTO.”

                Mendel of course refers to online horse racing wagers, a form of internet gambling that is not prohibited by UIGEA regulations. Furthermore, the U.S. is home to the World Series of Poker, where players are openly sponsored by online poker rooms. The U.S. has continued to launch litigation against various offshore online casino operators, including those that exited the U.S. market as soon as the UIGEA was implemented.

                Mendel says that he believes the online casino gambling market will remain available to U.S. players, and will expand domestically. The U.S., following its current trends, will continue to prosecute and discriminate against overseas markets, while protecting its own. Mendel describes the U.S.’s refusal to pay out on its debts as a “terrible economic warfare,” and feels the only route for Antigua if this behavior continues, is to open its market to the U.S.

                Antigua faces a serious economic crisis as the nation is applying for a $30 million loan to create more jobs. Mendel notes that Antiguan banks have a strong case with the WTO whose decisions are heavily influenced by legislation which favors the island nation.

                Mendel is hopeful that the new administration will alter its policies to favor offshore gaming in compliance with international free trade agreements. Meanwhile in the U.S., individual states have felt the effects of the UIGEA. New Hampshire has reported that online lottery credit card sales were blocked by the anti-gambling legislation. Because the banks are held responsible for upholding the UIGEA, many local stores have begun to refuse lottery sales by credit or debit card.

                The loss of even domestic gambling sales has resulted in less school funding, while U.S. residents continue to access online casinos using third party payment methods.