CasinoCityTimes.com

Gurus
News
Newsletter
Author Home Author Archives Search Articles Subscribe
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Newsletter Signup
Stay informed with the
NEW Casino City Times newsletter!
Recent Articles
author's picture
 

Western Union Shuts Down Antigua Offices

19 January 2006

Money transfer services company Western Union on Jan. 4 shut down operations at its four agencies on the islands of Antigua and Barbuda. Its services through the four agencies are known to have been one of the payment methods accepted by several of the islands' online gambling operators, which has prompted speculation that Western Union may be reacting to the U.S. government's prohibitive approach to online gambling.

The official statement from Western Union, which has headquarters in the United States, is that it has "temporarily suspended service to and from the island of Antigua."

Spokesperson Lori Varsames stated, "The suspension was the result of an ongoing internal review, and all transactions to Antigua which had not yet been received were refunded or will be refunded to the sender."

Varsames stressed that the review is ongoing and that Western Union is working to restore service at the Antiguan agencies. She could neither confirm nor deny whether the processing of money for online gambling services was a factor in suspending service.

"Western Union monitors its business and periodically conducts routine reviews of its agent base, and it was during the course of such a review that we identified certain circumstances that required further attention," said Varsames. "We're working to complete the review now, and as far as any of the findings are concerned, it would be inappropriate to characterize any of those until the review is complete."

Online news site Caribbean Net News reported last week that Antigua's government was not notified ahead of time of the Western Union suspensions, and as a result it set up a series of meetings with the company in an effort to ascertain the reasoning behind the closings. An official communication from Western Union's Regional Manager Hazel Beckles reportedly apologized for the delay in notifying the government and stated that "the temporary suspension was due to a compliance audit ordered by Western Union's Head Office." The audit was expected to be complete on January 12, but one week later the agencies remain closed.

That all four Antiguan Western Union agencies have been suspended while all of its other global chains have remained open has provoked some worries that the actions could be related to the World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute between the United States and Antigua and Barbuda. "I don't know whether or not this is because of gaming, but certainly questions arise as to why Western Union would have taken a unilateral decision to only shut down offices within Antigua and Barbuda in light of our continued action at the WTO," Ron Maginley, a consultant and the former director of offshore gaming for Antigua, told Antigua Sun.

He added, "I certainly think the government--and I hope they have done so--raises this as simply the latest issue of pressure being put on the part of the U.S. on companies that provide services to companies conducting legitimate business in Antigua and Barbuda and should insist that Western Union, if it has been providing services to gaming companies, be allowed to do so."

Little has happened in the public forum regarding the WTO dispute for several months. The Dispute Settlement Body of the WTO on April 22, 2004 adopted its Appellate Body's report that the U.S. online gambling policy violates an international trade agreement. In accordance with the report, the Dispute Settlement Body advised the United States to alter its policy on online gambling in order to come into compliance with the trade agreement. U.S. trade representatives informed the Dispute Settlement Body that the United States would comply with the report, and in August of 2004, a WTO-appointed arbitrator ruled that the United States has until April 2006 to do so.

However, absolutely nothing has taken place in the political arena to suggest that the United States has done anything to address the WTO decision. If anything, the country's lawmakers are moving in the opposite direction; Sen. Jon Kyl and Rep. James Leach have indicated that they may once again try to pass prohibitory bills. The WTO decision also seems to have done nothing to affect the opinion of the U.S. Department of Justice, which has insisted for years that all forms of online gambling violate the federal Wire Act.

Western Union Shuts Down Antigua Offices is republished from iGamingNews.com.
Bradley Vallerius

Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials.

Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

Bradley Vallerius Websites:

www.FortheBettorGood.com
Bradley Vallerius
Bradley P. Vallerius, JD manages For the Bettor Good, a comprehensive resource for information related to Internet gaming policy in the U.S. federal and state governments. For the Bettor Good provides official government documents, jurisdiction updates, policy analysis, and many other helpful research materials.

Bradley has been researching and writing about the business and law of internet gaming since 2003. His work has covered all aspects of the industry, including technology, finance, advertising, taxation, poker, betting exchanges, and laws and regulations around the world.

Bradley Vallerius Websites:

www.FortheBettorGood.com