The government of Caribbean nations Antigua and Barbuda has welcomed the dropping of all felony charges by US authorities against Bodog Founder Calvin Ayre, pointing out that the decision highlights the US’ failure to comply with WTO ruling on Internet Gaming and has called once again for the US to settle its own WTO dispute with Antigua & Barbuda.
For five years, Ayre has had the threat of US enforcement of illegal online gaming charges, but US federal prosecutors dropped all charges last month. The government said that this ‘entirely’ vindicates Ayre, who has been living in Antigua and Barbuda for 10 years.
Ayre was first indicted in February 2012 by the US Attorney for Maryland on charges of illegal gambling, despite a legally-binding ruling by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in March 2004 that the US government, by outlawing access of cross-border gaming, violated its treaty obligations to Antigua and Barbuda, under the General Agreement on Trade in Services. The fall out from this WTO decision is still rumbling on.
In 2005, a WTO Arbitration panel dismissed an appeal brought by the United States. Two years later in 2007, the WTO instructed that Antigua and Barbuda has suffered harm to the tune of US$21 million annually, and the country may seek authorisation from the WTO to sell US intellectual property, without the payment of fees and royalties, in order to recover the trade losses to its economy. However the past decade has seen talks between Antigua and Barbuda and the US government continually fail and the Government of Antigua and Barbuda has said it will now ‘reinvigorate the issue’ at the WTO at the next meeting of the Dispute settlement Body this year if there is no appropriate action by the US.
In its statement, the government added: “In light of the WTO ruling in Antigua and Barbuda’s favour, prosecutions by the United States of licensed gaming entities and their principals in Antigua and Barbuda, such as Calvin Ayre, are completely contrary to binding international agreements. In this context, Calvin Ayre and all other Antigua and Barbuda licensed gaming operators, who were indicted in the United States on Internet Gaming charges, are victims not culprits.”
Since being in Antigua and Barbuda, Ayre has invested a lot of his money locally, including the construction of his US$25m offices and the launch of the Calvin Ayre Foundation, which helps in areas such as child welfare, education, social development, animal welfare and emergency response.