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Antigua And Barbuda Makes First Submission To WTO

by Amanda Banks, for, London

03 October 2003

The government of Antigua and Barbuda revealed on Monday that it has filed its first submission to a World Trade Organisation (WTO) Disputes Panel in a complaint brought against the United States over the latter's crackdown on offshore online gambling.

The dispute originates from an Act championed by Representative James Leach (R- Iowa), who claimed studies have found that Internet gaming sites are at risk of being used by criminals to launder funds and evade taxes, and provide a direct pipeline of dollars into terrorist hands.

"The very characteristics that make the Internet such a valuable resource are also the reasons why it has such a huge potential to impinge on the stability of the American family, American financial institutions and our national security," Leach announced during the passage of the bill earlier this year.

As a result of Congressional scrutiny of the issue, and legislation such as the Leach Act, credit card providers and payment services such as Visa, MasterCard, and PayPal now refuse to process betting transactions between US citizens and offshore casinos and gaming sites, a development which has had a significant negative impact on the economies of countries such as Antigua and Barbuda.

Speaking this week, chief foreign affairs representative of Antigua and Barbuda, Sir Ronald Sanders, announced that:

"We are pleased that our case is proceeding according to the schedule set by the panel." He continued:

"We look forward to hearing the response of the United States. As a small country with very little in the way of viable exports, the gaming industry represents a vital area of our development of electronic commerce for a global market. We believe very strongly in our case under the law."

Antigua and Barbuda is basing its claim on the WTO's General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). The government is arguing that the US is violating its commitment to fellow WTO members under GATS by prohibiting the provision of cross-border gambling and betting services.

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