New Hope in the Barbuda Triangle: Can Trump Rescue Online Gambling Dispute?

Lee R. - January 20, 2017

Antigua is determined to move forward one way or another.

Officials of a pioneering iGaming nation hope that the impending Trump Administration will amicably settle a long-running dispute.    

One Way or Another

In his throne speech to open 2017 Parliamentary proceedings last Monday, Governor-General Sir Rodney Williams announced the intention of Prime Minister Gaston Browne to enact legislation this year to permanently resolve the conflict which began in 1997.

Crux of the Issue

At the time, the US began charging off-shore betting operators for offering online betting services to American customers which included several Antiguan operators-- before prohibiting them completely.

The Claim

Antigua And Barbuda took legal exception with the WTO in 2003, claiming unfair US protectionist policy violating the General Agreement on Trade and Services. The Antigua’s lead counsel claim that “America’s prohibition in the provision of gambling services from other countries violates the US commitments to the WTO” originated from an earlier GATS requirement of free trade of recreational services amongst all members.

The Ruling

The WTO ruled in favour of Antigua on the basis that if the US allowed online interstate gambling on horse racing, then they could not forbid anyone else from offering online betting--ostensibly as a “recreational activity”--to the domestic multibillion dollar US market.

The Compensation

Restitution to Antigua was set at $21 million per year. The US tab has now surpassed $250 million.


Williams maintains hope that the dispute will not require the extreme Antigua government measure of selling downloads of US copyrighted material to recover the WTO award:  

“My government believes that the new (US) administration...will quickly settle the differences that have kept our negotiators apart” to avoid copyright nullification proceedings on the part of his government for collecting restitution “consistent with the World Trade Organization ruling.”

EU Comparison

In the contemporary operational EU context of a functional multi-nation model governing trade between member jurisdictions, Antigua operators would have to receive a license to serve US customers in a regulated market.


US federal gambling restrictions continue to legally prohibit all forms of online wagering, with horse-racing the exception rather than rule as Antigua and the WTO claim. Trump molded his policies and rhetoric as a businessman who refuses to be bullied. You do the math.  

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