Saturday, August 05, 2006

David & Goliath: Antigua v USA

Paul Blustein reports for the Washington Post:
WASHINGTON - Locked in a federal prison in the Nevada desert, tortured by the distant lights of the Las Vegas Strip, Jay Cohen couldn't stop thinking about getting even with the government that had put him away - and his revenge fantasy had a unique twist.

U.S. prosecutors put Cohen behind bars in 2002 for running an Internet gambling site in the Caribbean country of Antigua and Barbuda. Not long before the prison gates clanged shut, he had learned that the federal crackdown on online betting might violate global trade rules.

So he got Antigua and Barbuda to instigate a complaint at the World Trade Organization. "It kind of helped keep my spirits up," he said.

Fast forward: Antigua and Barbuda, population 69,000, is winning. The case has become an embarrassment to Washington, one that could result in economic pain. It isn't quite over, but the world's only superpower may have to capitulate to a country whose entire population could easily fit into the Rose Bowl.

Never has such a tiny nation brought a WTO complaint against the United States, which is one reason the dispute has implications well beyond the issue of gambling.