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Antigua To Explore Compromise Options
News Date: February 3, 2009

The stand off between Antigua and the United States was put on hold while the latter went through its election rituals. Now with the new administration settling in things are expected to move again. The first salvo has been fired by Mark Mendel of Antigua in an interview to the online gambling information portal Major Wager. Only it appears more like an olive branch. Mendel explains that though legally Antigua has a strong position it will first exhaust compromise options before initiating fresh legal ones. The issue involves not allowing online gaming operators licensed in Antigua to access American players through the passing of the UIGEA and the huge losses being incurred by these operators as a result.

To begin with Mendel points out that Antigua has won every legal battle fought so far. More important in the United States there are several indicators that online gambling per se is not taboo. United States legislators have been supporting online betting at horse races. Two states have declared poker as a game of skill and hopefully a third will do so as well. This will bring pressure to move online poker out of the purview of the UIGEA. New Hampshire authorities have claimed that their state owned lottery was beginning to lose out because credit card companies have stopped financing online purchases pursuant to the revised UIGEA regulations. Mendel is of the opinion that sooner or later the U.S authorities will have to allow online casino gambling and when that will happen then Antigua’s case will become stronger and its claim will become larger.

Mendel is clear that the UIGEA has not succeeded in preventing American from gambling online. It has succeeded in creating a trade barrier for offshore gambling operators based in Antigua and Europe. What the UIGEA has done is compelled U.S. banks and financial institutions to violate international law. Mendel said, "The UIGEA would never pass a review at the WTO". Keeping all the above in mind Mendel is convinced that Antigua will win if it proceeds legally in the WTO. However Antigua will exhaust all settlement options before it embarks on that route.

The Antigua government is well aware that in order to reach a compromise both sides will have to yield. On its part Antigua will be satisfied with a part of the American online gambling market. In fact Mendel says that Antigua has never insisted on full market access. However the compromise offer to Antigua "has to be reasonable under all of the circumstances." If not, then Antigua will contest the forced withdrawal of American customers from off shore gambling and betting services and it may even suspend United States intellectual property rights. However, like everyone in the online gambling industry, Antigua is hoping that the Obama administration will be move favorably disposed.

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