Antigua Questions Legality Of Online Poker Attacks…Again

The U.S. Department of Justice’s recent attack on online poker might be the biggest thing to happen to the game, but those of us that have been playing since the beginning (or at least since 2006) know that the case may be historical but it certainly isn’t unique. As with the crackdowns that followed the passage of the UIGEA in 2006, many entities are now questioning the legality of the DoJ’s actions. If those questions are also being asked at the World Trade Organization, then the DoJ could be in for a real battle.

You might think the protests of the Poker Players Alliance or public opinion are the DoJ’s biggest opponents, but on the contrary, what Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney’s Office really needs to worry about is the little island nation of Antigua. Antigua – a popular base of operations for many online gambling brands – is once again questioning the legitimacy of the recent case against poker sites like PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, Absolute Poker and While the crackdown may be ok with the U.S. government, international law will likely be on Antigua’s side.

A little background on Antigua and the United States’ shared history… When the UIGEA was originally signed into law in 2006, the U.S. government immediately used it as justification for seizing online gambling funds. Sounds familiar, right? While a lot of people complained, only the nation of Antigua successfully resisted the seizures. They took their case to the World Trade Organization, and after several months of consideration and research the WTO ruled in favor of Antigua on the premise that the United States had violated market access treaties.

After Antigua won their WTO case, they filed a claim requesting $3.4 billion in damages from the U.S. government – a number that is eerily similar to what the DoJ is hoping to get from the poker site operators. President George Bush orchestrated a settlement between the U.S. and Antigua, but the full details of that arrangement have never been released. Now Antigua is ready to go to war for its many online gambling clients once again, and precedence is obviously on their side.

Why is Antigua fighting this battle? For one, the country licenses Absolute Pokers, one of the primary defendants in the DoJ’s upcoming case. For another, most of the gambling community is assuming that if this case goes uncontested we can expect to see more seizures in the near future, so a pre-emptive reminder of the WTO’s stance on the legitimacy of those seizures not only benefits Antigua’s online gambling revenue but the entire online poker community.

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