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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Minnesota Attempts to Block Online Gaming Sites Thwarted

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The effort was baseless and short-lived. The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS), specifically the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED), attempted to block all of its state’s residents from accessing online gambling websites by sending directive letters to a total of 11 national and regional telephone internet service providers to block said access. Within hours, various organizations proceeded to initiate a halt to the actions, and within six weeks, success was theirs.

It all began on April 29 when local Minnesota newspapers reported that the abovementioned letters were sent to companies like AT&T, Charter, and Sprint/Nextel, ordering them to comply with the order to block access to the sites by computer or phone. Non-compliance was threatened with reporting to the Federal Communications Commission for failure to comply with the 1961 Federal Wire Act. It soon became clear that the ISP companies were unwilling to respond to the orders, much less comply.

In the meantime, the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) immediately threatened to fight the “misrepresentation of federal law” with the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, and the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) vowed to challenge the “shaky legal pretext” of the order. All of this came in response to statements from AGED director John Willems that implied that online gambling brings up issues like funding for criminal and terrorist organizations, and the PPA and iMEGA were among several organizations that came to the defense of Minnesota residents.

On June 4, the PPA announced that the state officially dropped its enforcement action. The information came directly from Minnesota Pat Garofalo who became one of the most outspoken opponents of the DPS actions, even going so far as to introduce legislation that would make actions like that of the DPS unlawful unless approved by the state legislature and called for future laws to regulate online poker. Garofalo told the PPA that DPS would halt its censorship attempt after “the legal position underlying the issuance of the notices was reconsidered,” and credited the PPA and iMEGA with the resolution.

Garofalo added, “This is a great day for internet freedom. In the spirit of cooperation and in recognition of the rescission of these notices, I am more than happy to withdraw my bill and in its place sponsor a discussion aimed at establishing a framework for regulating and licensing the online gaming industry.”

John Pappas of the PPA commented, “We are extremely proud of our membership for unifying so quickly and effectively in opposition to this action. We look forward to working with all parties involved to reach a sensible framework for regulation of this 21st Century pastime.”

With that, the Minnesota issue seems to be concluded. While iMEGA hesitates to call the case closed, even issuing a statement that “no settlement agreement exists at this time,” the PPA and Garofalo seem confident that a resolution is in place.

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