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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Kentucky Court Rules Poker a Game of Chance, Domains May Be Seized

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The state of Kentucky made what could be called a landmark ruling in the case of online gaming domain names when a circuit county judge ruled that the Commonwealth of Kentucky could pursue their intent to seize 141 domains. The effort has come from an assertion by Governor Steve Beshear that online gambling is not only illegal but encroaches upon the money-making endeavors, like horse racing, bingo, and the lottery, upon which the state relies for revenue.

It began on September 18th when Beshear made an announcement of his intentions to seize the 141 online gaming domain names and took it to the Franklin County Court to gain the proper authority to do so. The initial hearing resulted in a continuance until October 7th, on which day attorneys for the Commonwealth of Kentucky as well as those representing numerous online gaming sites made their cases to Judge Thomas Wingate. He then vowed to take all arguments into consideration and render a decision approximately one week later.

Wingate made that decision, though it came nearly 24 hours after the promised date due to what was noted as computer problems. The decision was harsh. Wingate dismissed all arguments brought by the domain sites’ attorneys, as well as those submitted by the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, Interactive Gaming Council, Internet Commerce Association, and Poker Players Alliance. All objections to the request by the Commonwealth were dismissed, including the argument that poker is a game of skill, noting that the Kentucky statute dictates that any element of chance is enough.

Moreover, Wingate ruled that organizations like the PPA and ICA had no standing in the matter, though they only filed amicus briefs, and Network Solutions was denied standing as a domain registration site until its relationship to the domain names involved is verified. As for the attorneys representing the domains, nine of them were denied their motions to dismiss the case because they did not identify the owners of the domains they represented, and according to the judge’s ruling, none of the other domains involved in the ruling were directly represented when arguments were heard.

Ultimately, Wingate ruled that each of the 141 online gaming sites sought after by the Commonwealth of Kentucky have thirty days to institute and begin enforcement of the geoblocking process, which will specifically block Kentucky residents from accessing the sites. Those who prove their cooperation will not be seized by the state. A final hearing is set for November 17, 2008.

The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) issued a statement upon the release of the judge’s ruling, as it claims to represent more than 16,000 members of the poker community in Kentucky. The organization’s executive director, John Pappas, said, “Clearly, we believe the judge in this case got it wrong. 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.”

Pappas continued, “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.”

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