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Kentucky Hearing Scheduled for Today

by Hillary LaClair, Senior Editor
December 12, 2008

                 Today is a monumental day for the online casino industry, as the forfeiture hearing in the Kentucky domain seizure case will finally be held. A panel of three judges will deliberate on an appeal filed by several net neutrality groups and internet gambling activists.

                The news of Kentucky’s attempt to confiscate 141 internet gambling domains is old by now, but the criticism just as strong. When the County Court Judge granted the state authority to seize the domains unless a ban was placed on its residents, a shockwave hit the industry – and the wrath of iMEGA, the PPA, and many net neutrality groups incurred.

                On many levels the ruling was challenged – in its alleged violation of the First Amendment, the Commerce Clause and the Due Process Clause, in the state having no jurisdiction over foreign online casinos, and even in the idea that it should not include games of skill, such as poker.

                The case was moved to the Kentucky Court of Appeals, most notably by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA), a non-profit organization that has been long fighting for the right to gamble online. iMEGA was granted a stay in Appeals Court, and allowed to present their case, among others, before a panel of Judges Michael Caperton, Jeff Taylor and Michelle Keller, which brings us to the present.

                The highest concern for most is that if the ruling goes in favor of Kentucky, new doors will be opened to internet censorship, setting dangerous precedents.

                “This matter has generated concerns across the online world about abuse of governmental power,” said Chairman Joe Brennan. “Kentucky is opening the door for any government - state and local, foreign and domestic - to use what amounts to blackmail to achieve its ends. If this precedent is allowed to stand, it’s not hard to imagine a government like China utilizing this kind of seizure power to prevent free media, like the New York Times, from reaching their citizens.”

                The hearing will begin mid-morning, where the panel will convene briefly to hear the positions of iMEGA and the Interactive Gaming Council. Addition “friends of the court,” or amicus briefings, were submitted in writing along with iMEGA, by other interested parties like the Poker Players Alliance, further challenging the decision to seize the domains.

                It is uncertain how long the process will take. Because the briefs were first submitted in writing, it is hoped that the process will be a quick one, however it could take weeks or even months.