by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
A decision has finally been made by Kentucky judge Thomas Wingate, in the court proceedings in which the state intended to seize 141 internet casino gambling domains. Gaming website operators have been given 30 days to block access to Kentucky residents.
Should the gaming websites such as Full Tilt Poker, PokerStars, Bodog and Golden Palace comply with the state ruling and 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.”
Should the websites fail to comply, however, operators will be given the opportunity to present their case before Wingate on November 17th. The Judge suggested that he would be willing to consider relieving a website of seizure should operators succeed to presenting the websites as advertisements.
“The counsel for Goldenpalace.com represented during the October 7 hearing that the operation of Goldenpalace.com is limited to maintaining a website and providing advertisement for third-party gambling websites,” Wingate stated during his verdict. “The court agrees that the maintenance of a website of Internet advertisement alone, without more, is not enough to constitute presence for the purposes of state court jurisdictional analysis. This, 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141 Domain Names that identifies websites which are providing information only, the Seizure Order must be appropriately rescinded and will be rescinded in due course.”
The verification process has yet to be clearly defined. “We’re still going through the ruling,” said Jennifer Brislin, communications director for the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet that filed the lawsuit. “I all these sites block access [to Kentucky residents], they’ll be free from forfeiture. Otherwise, there will be a forfeiture hearing.”
“I don’t know what the procedure for verification will be yet,” she added. “It will be more involved than a ‘Hey we blocked you’ notification.”
For the duration of the court proceedings, Wingate focused on whether Kentucky had jurisdiction over internet domain names, and whether said domains were considered illegal gambling devices. Joe Kelly, a Buffalo State business law professor stated that “a state court will almost always try to find jurisdiction.”
Following the rulings, online casinos and their domain owners have four possible actions to take: Comply with Wingate’s ruling, appeal Wingate’s ruling, present their case at the forfeiture hearing, or file against Kentucky in federal court on interstate commerce issues.
“This really should be brought up in a federal court,” Kelly opined. “They stand a much better chance arguing this in a federal court than I think in a state court.”
The Poker Players Alliance was less than ecstatic with the final ruling, as the organization shares the view that poker should be excluded from the hearings altogether under the basis that it is a game of skill.
“Clearly we believe the judge in this case got it wrong,” said John Pappas, PPA Executive Director. “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.”