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Kentucky judge gives online gambling sites 30 days to block access16 October 2008
Judge Thomas Wingate has given 141 online gambling sites 30 days to block access to Kentucky residents. If the sites in question -- which include industry giants Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Bodog and Golden Palace – have "reasonably established to the satisfaction of the Kentucky's Justice and Safety Cabinet or this Court that such geographical blocks are operational, (they) shall be relieved from the effects of the Seizure order and from any further proceedings in the instant civil forfeiture action," said Wingate in his 43-page ruling.
The exact nature of the verification process remained unclear in the immediate aftermath of the decision. "We're still going through the ruling," said Jennifer Brislin, communications director for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of the government. "If all these sites block access (to Kentucky residents), they'll be free from forfeiture. Otherwise, there will be a forfeiture hearing (on Nov. 17)."
"I don't know what the procedure for verification will be yet," Brislin added. "It will be more involved than a 'Hey, we blocked you' notification."
Sites that don't block access from Kentucky will have an opportunity to present their case before Wingate on Nov. 17 at 10:30 a.m. In his ruling, Wingate indicated one line of defense he would be willing to hear is the Web sites are simply advertisements.
"The counsel for Goldenpalace.com represented during the October 7 hearing that the operation of Goldenpalce.com is limited to maintaining a website and providing advertisement for third-party gambling websites," Wingate said in his ruling.
"The court agrees that the maintenance of a website or Internet advertisement alone, without more, is not enough to constitute presence for the purposes of state court jurisdictional analysis…Thus, the Court recognizes that as to any of the Defendants 141 Domain Names that identifies websites which are providing information only, the Seizure Order must be appropriately rescinded and will be rescinded in due course," Wingate added.
"The appropriate time to make that determination, i.e., whether the operations of the website identified with the domain name goldenpalace.com, however, is not in this proceeding, but during the forfeiture hearing (on Nov. 17).
The rest of Wingate's ruling Thursday focused mostly on whether Kentucky had jurisdiction over domain names, arguments that domain names were not illegal gambling devices and standing.
And his decision that Kentucky did indeed have the jurisdiction to seize domain names to enforce gambling laws didn't come as a surprise to those following the case.
"A state court will almost always try to find jurisdiction," explained Buffalo State business law professor Joe Kelly.
The online gambling sites have four options available to them, Kelly added. They can comply with Wingate's ruling, appeal Wingate's ruling, proceed with the forfeiture hearing or try and challenge Kentucky in federal court on interstate commerce issues.
"This (interstate commerce) really should be brought up in a federal court," Kelly said. "They stand a much better chance arguing this in a federal court than I think in a state court."
Wingate's ruling was immediately condemned by the Poker Player's Alliance, which filed an amicus brief arguing that poker sites should not be included in the state's action because poker is a skill game.
"Clearly, we believe the judge in this case got it wrong," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. "First of all, we strongly disagree with Judge Wingate's ruling that poker is not a game of skill. As demonstrated in the amicus brief we filed, skill plays an essential role in being a successful poker player. Additionally, we believe that by confirming Governor Beshear's actions, the court has set a dangerous precedent for censorship of the Internet. Today's ruling is a big step backward for both personal rights and Internet freedom."
"Judge Wingate's order is a huge disappointment to the thousands of Kentuckians who play Internet poker. In essence, Governor Beshear and Judge Wingate are denying law-abiding citizens this form of recreation simply because it is enjoyed on the Internet. This is Internet censorship by judicial fiat, plain and simple," added Rich Muny, Kentucky State Director of the Poker Players Alliance.
"I am certain that many of the plaintiffs in this case intend to quickly appeal this matter. We are confident that the Kentucky Appellate Court will review the facts and overturn today's order. At the same time, the PPA will continue its efforts to protect the rights of Kentucky citizens to play poker online," Pappas added.
Kentucky judge gives online gambling sites 30 days to block access is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.
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