WTO approves Antigua sanctions on US in gambling dispute

The World Trade Organization on Monday gave the green light for Antigua and Barbuda to impose sanctions on the United States in a long-running dispute over online gambling.

Antigua and Barbuda, a tiny Caribbean nation, complained in 2003 that the US ban on Internet gambling violated WTO rules, and won.

Antigua, with a population of about 80,000, has long been a centre for offshore Internet gaming and insisted that the US ban on US residents placing wagers with companies based in the country was an unfair trade restriction.

A WTO arbitration ruled in 2007 that the country could seek sanctions on US intellectual property, by for instance lifting copyright on films and music, of up to $21 million a year.

Although that was a far cry from the $3.4 billion Antigua had requested -- an amount Washington at the time argued was "patently excessive" and more than three times the size of the country's economy -- the United States balked.

Washington has since then been trying to get Antigua to instead accept compensation, according to a source close to the matter, but the country refused and received the final go-ahead Monday from the WTO's Dispute Settlement Board to impose the sanctions.

In a long statement Monday, Antigua vowed to do so "in a reasonable and responsible manner."

The United States meanwhile insisted sanctions against its intellectual property would amount to "theft" and "government authorised piracy."

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