The World Trade Organization has played a major role in spurring the debate about online gambling in the United States. The WTO has been engaged in a lengthy dispute with U.S. officials over the ban on Internet gambling. This dispute has created major headaches for the U.S. in terms of potential monetary losses, diplomatic conflicts and legal issues relating to public disclosure.
The Caribbean nation of Antigua had been engaged in a long-running dispute with the United States over online gambling. Antigua claimed that the United States had violated treaties by shutting down online casinos based in Antigua with customers in the U.S. Antigua and Barbuda filed a claim with the WTO against the U.S. in 2003 for $3.3 billion in damages. The WTO eventually ruled in favor of the island nations and said that they could ignore U.S. patent and trademark claims in relation for the actions of the United States.
The United States settled the dispute in 2007 by agreeing to concessions in other sectors. However, these concessions were never made public, leading to calls for greater transparency from some members of Congress and lawsuits from citizen activists. The agreement became a talking point again in 2011 when the United States shut down three major poker rooms based in Antigua. The Antiguan government claimed that this was an attempt by the U.S. to block trade and a violation of their agreement; the United States countered that the sites were shut down because they illegally laundered money.