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Kentucky Decision Goes Against Internet Gambling Companies
News Date: October 18, 2008

Kentucky Circuit Court judge, Thomas Wingate, ended the three-week suspense when he delivered a judgment confirming the Kentucky Governor’s initiative to seize the domain names of 141 Internet gambling companies. Late in September the Kentucky Governor had obtained a court order to seize the domain names on grounds that they were illegal gambling devices. In September the court had granted continuance to the Internet companies till the case was heard. Judge Wingate heard arguments from the companies who were represented directly, from agencies like iMEGA who claimed representation of other companies and associations like the Poker Player Association who had filed friends of the court briefs.

Judge Wingate turned down each and every argument. First of all he upheld the argument that a domain name is a device despite not being something mechanical and therefore it is an illegal device under Kentucky laws and can be seized. For sometime the Poker Players Association has been identifying poker as a game of skill and therefore not a gambling game. Their argument was that since it is not a gambling game it cannot be considered as illegal gambling. Judge Wingate opined that Kentucky laws do not specify the proportion of chance in a game for it to be a gambling game. And since poker has an element of chance no matter how small it is a gambling game under Kentucky laws. The argument that Kentucky has no jurisdiction in the matter because the domain names were neither serviced nor housed in Kentucky was also struck down.

The most consequential part of Judge Wingate’s order concerned the right to represent the domain name owners. Only nine of the domain name owners had sent direct legal counsel to argue on their behalf. The judge ruled that since these representatives had not identified the owners of the domain names their representation lacked legal validity. This was expected because at the time of granting continuance Judge Wingate had said, “You are going to have to eventually pony up and say who these people are.” Therefore the other agencies had no chance of being accepted as valid representatives. The Poker Players Alliance and the Internet Commerce Association had not even claimed to represent the domain names but were allowed to argue as friends of the court. The representation of iMEGA and the Interactive Gaming Council was turned down.

Judge Wingate gave relief to the few domain names that only advertised their services in Kentucky and did not actually provide them. He said that names would be removed from the list. But those who actually provided services would have their domain names seized. However he offered a way out in the form of Internet geoblocking. If access to the gambling sites through Kentucky-based Internet service providers were blocked then Kentucky laws would be complied with as far as forfeiture is concerned. Judge Wingate has given 30 days for the geoblocking to be done and the final hearing is set for November 17th, 2008.

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