Barbuda wants US to repay online gambling revenue to rebuild

Barbuda wants gambling revenue to rebuild
Barbuda after Hurricane Irma.

Barbuda, one of the Caribbean Islands devastated by Hurricane Irma, is reportedly looking to online gambling revenue to rebuild.

At the time of writing, no one but the animals which residents were forced to leave behind, are living on the Island of Barbuda.

More than 1700 people who evacuated remain on the island of Antigua, as defence forces and rescue teams assess the damage to Barbuda.

The Category 5 storm hit last week and damaged more than 95 percent of the island’s structures. Images have shown the devastating impacts of the hurricane which reduced houses to rubble and left the stunning holiday destination uninhabitable.

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The price to rebuild has been estimated at $USD250-300 million, an amount which the island reportedly could afford if the online gambling dispute is solved.

Online casino companies began operating out of Barbuda when online gambling first became popular. But when the US started cracking down on internet gambling by restricting players from gambling online, Barbuda lost a lot of gaming revenue. According to Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US, Ronald Sanders, the restrictions hit the island’s economy hard.

According to Barbuda, the US owes the country 14 years’ worth of online gambling revenue – claims which have been supported by the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

The WTO ruled that the US violated trade agreements when it banned online casinos and betting sites hosted in Antigua and Barbuda. The decision was upheld by an appellate body the following year.

The case determined that Antigua and Barbuda’s losses were estimated at $USD21 million a year. Since the US didn’t pay Barbuda or Antigua, the islands were permitted to lift protection of US intellectual property rights.

“We feel a little disadvantaged by this process. We’ve been trying very hard over 14 years to get the US Trade Representative’s Office to reach a reasonable settlement with us,” Mr Sanders said.

“If they were going to do it, there would be no better time than now to allow us to rebuild our country on the basis of money which we have lost because of the United States’ action and which has been arbitrated fairly and squarely and legally in our country’s favour.”

The island has also been hit hard by heavy rain and winds earlier this week after Hurricane Maria blasted Puerto Rico on Wednesday.

While discussions are in place with regards to finding the money to rebuild, an ABS Television/Radio director of news, Garfield Burford, told NBC News that humanitarian issues are at the forefront.

“For now, there is just the focus on relief, and recovery efforts and of course beyond that will be the broader discussion of a rebuilding and reconstruction of a new Barbuda. It will pretty much take a rebuilding of the island,” he said.

Several politicians are calling upon the US government to grant temporary humanitarian immigration status to Caribbean nationals impacted by the hurricane. This would allow, for example, a Barbudan resident to live with family or friends in New York or another US state instead of the shelter set up on neighbouring Caribbean islands.

Sarah O'Brien

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