US and Antigua Battle Over Online Betting

Antigua, the smallest country to ever win a World Trade Organization case, is seeking the right to impose $3.4 billion in commercial sanctions against the U.S. for its failure to comply with a ruling on its online betting ban; if succesful, this will be the second highest sanction in the WTO's history. Last year, Washington stopped U.S. banks and credit card companies from processing payments to online gambling businesses outside the country, a decision which closed off nearly half of the world's online gamblers in a market worth $15.5 billion.

While the WTO supported this decision on moral grounds, it also ruled that it was illegal to target online gambling, without equally applying the rules to American operators offering remote betting on horse and dog racing. As a result of the loss, the US declared its intention to explicitly remove Internet gambling from its obligations under the WTO's treaty on trade in services, causing Australia, Canada, Costa Rica, India, Macau, Japan, and the entire EU to file compensation claims in kind. EU online gambling sites in particular - which largely bankrolled Antigua's legal efforts - have claimed the U.S. owes the European Union a jackpot of up to $100 billion in trade concessions to compensate for its illegal ban on foreign gambling companies. The US denies all these claims and is preparing to go into arbitration in Geneva next month.

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