Antigua and Barbuda to lobby against Leach Bill
By Paul
The twin-island Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda announced last Wednesday that it would lobby US senators not to approve the Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act, which would result in a loss of islanders' jobs and millions of dollars in revenue. The US House of Representatives has already approved the bill aimed at blocking money laundering and the funneling of money to terrorists via Internet casinos.

Antigua and Barbuda's chief negotiator on financial services, Ronald Sanders said his government had recruited two American lawyers, Joe Pataney and Prof. Joseph Kelly, both experts in Internet gaming issues, to convince senators that online gaming does not pose a threat to the security of the US.

Sanders said that the Antigua and Barbuda financial services sector was well regulated and supervised so that suspects allegedly involved money laundering and terrorism could be apprehended.

'If it does happen, we know we have the ability to catch the culprits and if the Internet gaming industry here is used to threaten the security of the United States, the first ... to tell the United States that it is so and hand over the persons responsible will be Antigua and Barbuda,' he said.

Authorities fear that if the proposed Unlawful Internet Gambling Funding Prohibition Act becomes law, 800 workers from the 39 offshore Internet casinos operating here would lose their jobs at a cost of 35 million East Caribbean dollars ($12.9 million) annually.

The islands' government also projects a direct economic loss of EC$6 million ($2.2 million) in license fees if the Internet casinos operating there are closed due to the new legislation.

'It would be a major economic calamity for Antigua if the bill became law,' said the director of offshore gaming, Ron Maginley.

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