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Antiguan Government Accepts Gyneth McAllister's Resignation

21 June 2000

The government of Antigua has finally acknowledged - and accepted -- last week's resignation of Gyneth McAllister, the outspoken Director of Offshore Gaming.

In an email last Thursday morning, McAllister enclosed a copy of her letter of resignation to Prime Minister Lester Bird, indicating that she had policy differences with both her government and the online gaming industry.

The letter was dated Wednesday, June 14, but for several days Joyce Edwards, a spokeswoman for Bird, said Bird had not received the letter from McAllister. Tuesday, however, Edwards told RGTonline that the letter had been received.

"The resignation has been accepted," Edwards said. "I can't elaborate." Asked about a new appointment to replace McAllister, Edwards said, "That's being looked at."

One veteran operator of gaming sites in Antigua said the country needs a regulator with "a more diplomatic manner" than McAllister, who had made blunt comments about casinos and sports books that opposed her efforts at more rigorous regulation.

"I think she was pressured into resigning," the operator, who requested anonymity, said. "The government realizes she's been completely counterproductive. . . .

"I am confident the government of Antigua will do the right thing. They have to appease the U.S. government. Nobody's afraid of regulation. What we're afraid of is instability."

Citing the threat of some casinos and sports books to leave the island for other jurisdictions, she said, "Antigua has been burning bridges."

Another operator, who is willing to be quoted by name, said other jurisdictions have aggressively courted the business of Antiguan gaming sites since early spring, when McAllister proposed a "black box" to monitor the servers of all sites and a new 2 percent tax on gaming revenue.

"Literally within about the first week of all this happening regarding the 2 percent tax and the black box, we got proposals from five or six different governments," Simon Noble, the executive director of Intertops, told RGTonline. The other governments sent delegations to call on Intertops and other sites, he said.

Intertops (www.intertops.com) has operated a sports book in Antigua for three years. The company also has a casino at the same site.

"It's a 20-minute flight to some of these islands," Noble said, "where we (would) pay $35,000 a year, our telecommunications costs are one-tenth of the price. Here in Antigua, we're paying US$175,000 for a license, plus tax, plus telecommunications costs that are through the roof."

Noble said Intertops paid a total of $6 million last year in salaries, rent, leasing fees and utility bills. His company has 40 employees in Antigua.

"We're very happy here in Antigua," he said, but added that "we are looking at other jurisdictions at the moment, just to keep our avenues open."

Noble said Intertops has talked to several jurisdictions, including the Mohawk Territory of Kahnawake, near Montreal, Canada. Golden Palace Online Casino, which is still licensed in Antigua, moved its primary server to Kahnawake last summer.

Boss Media, whose software runs several sites in Antigua, has held recent talks with the managers of the Kahnawake operation. Another online casino, Intercasino, moved to Dominica after its license in Antigua came up for renewal recently.

The Intertops sports book license expired last week, Noble said. He is meeting with the government to clarify the conditions of renewal.

"I just want to know what I am agreeing to by paying the license for another year, what are the terms and conditions," he said. Everyone's original license clearly stated, he said, that the terms would remain unchanged for five years.

Noble also said that his company's opposition to the black box proposal was based on concerns about interfering with the speed of transactions on his sports book.

"It had nothing to do with money laundering or player protection," he said. "We've always had an open-door policy with the government."

But sports book bettors like to bet just before the game starts, Noble said. He was worried that the black box computer would add technical stress to the system, causing it to slow down or even crash.

"Our record was something like 28 bets a second last season," at peak times, he said.

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