St. John’s Antigua- Antigua & Barbuda is taking yet another stab at resolving its eight-year-long online gaming dispute with the United States, now by assembling a team to devise solutions to present to both the US and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
On Friday, a communiqué was released from government unveiling the intent and names of the new committee that is led by Minister of Finance Harold Lovell and includes Kaye McDonald, director of gaming with the Financial Services Regulatory Commission, legal advisor to the government of Antigua & Barbuda in the online gaming matter, Mark Mendel and permanent secretary in the Department of Trade Industry and Commerce, Ambassador Colin Murdoch .
The committee derived from the WTO Gaming Dispute Settlement Summit held by government in 2011. Government invited gaming operators, international experts in gaming law and trade and other stakeholders to participate.
“The key objective was one, to re-acquaint participants with the industry and our WTO case and to also come up with a current strategy to meet one of the imperatives of the country…Obviously, this case was bought to WTO on behalf of the gaming sector and the citizens of the county,” Director, Kaye McDonald, said in an interview with OBSERVER Media.
McDonald – whose role is to seek market access for the country’s gaming operators in utilising and developing regulations and policies – said they are striving to restore the country’s devastated gaming industry.
The director is encouraged by strides made in the gaming industry in Nevada, where legislators have granted licences to its land-based gaming operators. She called the effort “very forward moving.”
McDonald said that government would take a strategy to Director General of the WTO Pascal Lamy, in hopes that he will “help with some level of mediation, based on the formulation of some form of settlement the government would be looking to put before the United States and also to open the discussions again, in a meaningful way.”
She added, “Obviously, not to have this case go on for another eight years and to come to some plausible and reasonable settlement.”
However, according to the press release, Lamy “responded cautiously” to a proposal by government.
It continued that the director general was “awaiting a substantive response from the United States, as they would have to agree before the mediation effort could begin.”
In March, government presented a letter to the WTO Dispute Settlement Body, requesting intervention between Antigua & Barbuda and the US in the matter.
In a letter to the WTO, in response, the US said that substantively, Antigua & Barbuda was the source of the halt of negotiations — a point that Attorney Mendel strongly disputed.
In 2007, Antigua & Barbuda applied to the WTO to impose sanctions in the amount of $3 billion a year in efforts to force the US to comply with a prior verdict.
Currently, the country has the legal right to collect what would today be around $126 million in penalties from the US. The government of Antigua & Barbuda has not collected on the sum thus far.