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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Kentucky Domain Case Goes to State Supreme Court

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The case started with a shocking announcement that left the poker community a bit overwhelmed, but it will end with the highest court in the state of Kentucky hearing the Commonwealth’s own appeal in the case. And the Internet Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) will be there to defend poker players’ rights, internet freedoms, and personal liberties in the Kentucky State Supreme Court on October 22, 2009.

It all began only one year ago when Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky ordered that 141 internet gambling domain names, including such sites as PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker, be seized on the basis that they were not only illegal but infringed upon the gambling endeavors of Kentucky, like thoroughbred racing, lottery, and “charitable gaming activities.” Beshear called online gambling sites “leeches on our communities,” and asked a court for permission to seize the domain names should they refuse to block Kentucky residents from accessing their sites. That permission was granted by Judge Thomas Wingate, but an immediate counter action came from a group of organizations, including iMEGA, Poker Players Alliance (PPA), Interactive Gaming Council (IGC), American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), and Center for Democracy and Technology (CDT). The initial three filed a case with the Kentucky Court of Appeals, while the others entered amicus briefs to the court.

When the Court of Appeals ruled a month later that the Circuit Court ruling was overturned, it was on the basis that the internet domain names were not “gambling devices,” as asserted by Beshear, and not subject to seizure. The Commonwealth of Kentucky then appealed the case to the State Supreme Court, and it was announced on September 1 that the highest court in the state will hear the case on October 22.

The appellees in the case are iMEGA, PPA, ACLU, CDT, EFF, Internet Commerce Association, eBay, and Network Solutions, and they will present oral arguments against the Commonwealth of Kentucky in only 15 minutes. However, the brief for the oral argument was filed previously and clearly states the case of iMEGA, et al. “The threshold issue,” it stated, “whether an Internet domain name falls within the meaning of ‘gambling device’ as defined by KRS 528.010, is straightforward.”

It continued, “Beyond that, this case raises issues that include, but are by no means limited to, the absence of any statutory authority for a forfeiture action such as that brought by the Commonwealth under the Kentucky Penal Code; the constitutionality of the trial court’s secret, ex parte hearing and its sealing of court records; the trial court’s seizure of Internet domain names in secret without statutory basis and without jurisdiction over the domain names; the legislature’s intent with regard to gambling in general and Internet gambling in particular; the standing of the associations to represent their members’ interests; and the right of a state to shut down part of the Internet worldwide.”

It is on those basic points that iMEGA and company will argue their case before the Kentucky State Supreme Court. Said iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan. Jr., “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time, and we’re going to win again. From the beginning, Kentucky law has clearly supported our position, and a win in the State Supreme Court will put the final emphasis on that.”

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