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Off-Court News in Kentucky Case
News Date: November 6, 2008

All may be quiet in the courtrooms in the Kentucky case for now but there is fervent activity reported outside them. The Kentucky Governor issued an order to seize 141 domain names of online gambling companies. Judge Wingate of the lower court upheld the Governor’s action but will announce his final decision on December 3. Meanwhile the online gaming companies have moved the Court of Appeals and a hearing has been fixed for November 18. Hopefully the matter will be taken out of Judge Wingate’s jurisdiction.

Meanwhile the rumor mills are reporting that this whole exercise has been aimed at extorting huge sums from the online gaming companies. Card Player Magazine claimed that the state officials of Kentucky are looking at up to a billion dollars in what it calls ‘collective retributions’. In fact private lawyers retained by the state have gone on record saying that compensation was one of the objectives of this initiative, though they did not name a specific sum. They were quick to add that Kentuckians would not be allowed to use online gambling sites that were not approved by the state.

Jeff Ifrah, the lead attorney for the Interactive Gaming Council, which represents about 60 of the domain names, seems to agree. He told Card Player Magazine that despite the fact that Judge Wingate has not yet imposed any fines or penalties on the domain name owners “Kentucky and its private attorneys will do everything they can to make the sites pay up”. Ifrah is of the view that if Kentucky gets control over the domain names then its lawyers will literally extort the funds from their owners. And they can do so easily. In order to gain exemption the domain name owners will have to meet with the state officials and hand over reams of information. This time consuming process could be cut short if compensation was agreed to. However the possibility of such a scenario seems remote. Even if the Governor ultimately gets his way how will he enforce the seizure of the domain names that are registered with registrars outside the United States? With the negative international publicity already on board the international cooperation required will be hard to come by.

Ifrah has also expressed bitterness at the attitude of some of the domain name owners who have even not bothered to secure legal representation. Ifrah feels that either they are taking things lightly or are taking a piggy back free ride on the domain owners that are paying his fees. He stressed the need to speak with a unified legal voice because the matter was far from over.

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