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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Kentucky Looks to Add US Citizens to Illegal Gambling Complaint

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The case was thought to be awaiting one final ruling, that of the Kentucky Supreme Court. The Commonwealth of Kentucky already spent well over a year trying to seize domain names of 141 gambling websites deemed to relate to online gambling and infringe upon the state’s own money-making ventures of thoroughbred racing and the lottery. And when the case hit the Supreme Court and promised a decision in early 2010, both sides seemed content to wait for the final word. But the Commonwealth suddenly pushed forward with a motion that would add the names of US citizens to the formal complaint.

Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky started the actions in September of 2008 by ordering the internet domains be seized, and a lower court judge quickly agreed. But as word spread of the internet rights infringement, groups like iMEGA (Internet Media Entertainment & Gaming Association), PPA (Poker Players Alliance), IGC (Interactive Gaming Council), EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation), CDT (Center for Democracy and Technology), and ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) stepped in to file an appeal, which worked to overturn the original decision and protect internet domain names.

The Commonwealth then appealed its case to the State Supreme Court, and the hearing took place on October 22, 2009, at which time the aforementioned group of organizations joined with the Internet Commerce Association, Sportsbook.com, eBay, and Network Solutions to present a case that domain names are not gambling devices and cannot be seized by the state, in addition to the assertion that the trial court violated the Constitution by holding secret hearings. The decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court was and is not expected to be rendered until 2010.

But it was in December of 2009 that the Commonwealth filed a new motion with a related lawsuit pending in the lower court to add names of U.S. citizens and specific companies to the case. The motion requires the court of Judge Thomas Wingate, the original judge that granted seizure approval to the Commonwealth, to hold a hearing on the matter, which is scheduled for January 20, 2010 in the Franklin County Circuit Court. The motion read, in part: “In the course of the litigation and the Commonwealth’s continuing investigation, the Commonwealth has learned the identity of certain entities and individuals involved in internet gambling operations, some of whom are US citizens. The Commonwealth asks for leave to amend its complaint to add causes of action against these individuals and entities in personam.”

iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan commented on the last-minute move. “It’s odd that Kentucky’s lawyers would try something like this at such a late date, since we’re expecting a decision on this matter from the State Supreme Court any day now. We’re unaware of any ‘investigations’ by the state attorney-general or law enforcement in Kentucky. The Attorney-General himself asked to be dismissed from this suit last year. And there are no indictments or convictions that would enable Kentucky’s lawyers to add the names of individual US citizens to their seizure action.”

Further actions in this case are pending and have not yet been announced, nor has a specific date for the Supreme Court ruling.

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