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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Civil Liberties Groups Petition KY Court on Side of Poker Players

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The Kentucky case affecting online gaming domain names is far from over, though it seemed so on October 16th when Judge Thomas Wingate rendered his decision to allow the Commonwealth of Kentucky to seize 141 domains after giving them reasonable time to ban Kentucky players. But as that time in mid-November approached, a successful appeal attempt was already in place, and more organizations are deciding to stand up for the rights of Kentuckians in the case.

Less than two weeks after the original decision, iMEGA filed a petition to block the original court ruling and stop the seizures on the basis that Kentucky has no jurisdiction to touch domains that are not owned by Kentucky residents or managed in that state. In addition, iMEGA claimed that it was a civil matter, and the state had no standing to bring the case to the courts in the first place. Since iMEGA was granted its writ to stay the original decision, others have joined the fight.

Most notably, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) petitioned the court through an amicus brief filed with the Court of Appeals, and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT) joined in the brief. Citing the First Amendment, Commerce Clause, and Due Process Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the three organizations argued that the state court has no right to interfere with national or internationally registered domain names and asked that the Kentucky Court of Appeals completely vacate the original Wingate decision. The ACLU, EFF, and CDT contend that free speech rights on the internet are clearly in play in this case.

In basic terms, the amicus brief filed on behalf of the three organizations asked the court to vacate the lower court’s order, demand that the case be dismissed due to lack of jurisdiction, and order the circuit court to take the necessary steps to return all domain names to their original owners.

EFF Senior Staff Attorney Matt Zimmerman said, “The court’s theory - that a state court can order the seizure of internet domain names regardless of where the site was registered - is not only wrong but dangerous. If the mere ability to access a website gives every court on the planet the authority to seize a domain name if a site’s content is in some way inconsistent with local law, the laws of the world’s most repressive regimes will effectively control cyberspace.”

John Morris, General Counsel for CDT, added, “If the Kentucky order is upheld, no speech that conflicts with any law, anywhere in the world, would be safe from censorship. Just as Kentucky is trying to take down sites located around the world, any government seeking to stifle free expression could try to interfere with lawful speech hosted in the United States.”

And succinctly concluding the argument was David Friedman, ACLU General Counsel. “A key free speech principle that has emerged from internet litigation is this: Governments may not prohibit all access to websites as a remedy for unlawful behaviour.”

With the involvement of such high profile civil liberties organizations after the already powerful arguments put forth by iMEGA and similar associations, the appeals process in Kentucky has legs. iMEGA’s successful writ gave stay to the original forfeiture hearing, and the deadline for online gaming domains to block Kentuckians from their site or have their domain name seized by the Commonwealth will pass. The next date on the calendar is December 12th, when the Court of Appeals will hear arguments in Louisville.

In order to make your voice heard in the state of Kentucky, the Poker Players Alliance has made it possible for an online letter to be sent easily to Governor Beshear to let him know how you feel about his attempted takeover of all online gaming sites. In addition, residents of Kentucky can take the opportunity to stand up for their own rights of privacy by sending e-mails to their state representatives. The campaign is already getting the attention of numerous state and court officials, but more help is needed to let them know how you feel about the case.

*Playing online poker is not illegal in the United States, unless you live in one of eight states. The US government cannot control internet activity, including poker, and have opted to force the banks to be the police. Most US banks will not accept CC or MC to fund a poker account. As the US blunders with control, online poker is still being played by US citizens. If you are concerned about funding, try PokerStars where you can receive $25 free for a limited time.*

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