Back in the ‘ness this week is a brief report that island-nation and gaming luke-warm spot Antigua will resume its formal complaint process against the United States, regarding the tiny country’s eight-year-old dispute regarding the USA’s failure to comply with its own international treaties regarding online gambling.
According to Antigua and to the WTO, the USA has long been in violation of agreements which should allow Antigua-based online-gambling sites (including poker) to market their services freely to USA customers. However, the USA declared its intentions following the 2006 passage of the UIGEA to not honor its own commitments, and essentially defied the WTO or Antigua to do anything about it. The WTO awarded Antigua a $21 million annual judgment with which it could produce or transfer US-manufactured intellectual property (music, movies, etc.), but when one Antiguan transfer site briefly opened in 2008, such a hue and cry went up from American officials that the site was forced off the Internet.
Unfortunately, the WTO has long been exposed as a paper tiger, and the USA has a near-perfect record of adhering to WTO directives only when it suits them, as in the case of ongoing trade complaints against China. Therefore, one can expect that the resurrected Antiguan complaint will result in the WTO reaffirming its decision against the USA, and exactly zero real effect will come of it. Back in the first go-round with the WTO, a USA trade official said something to the effect that the WTO was created to give countries like Antigua a voice, not a vote. Power still rests with the money, and Antigua just doesn’t have that.