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Poker News | Gambling and the Law

Kentucky Supreme Court Asks Domain Owners to Come Forward

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Results of the online gaming domain case presented to the Kentucky Supreme Court has yet to come to conclusion, as a statement from the court on March 18 only further delayed any outcome. The latest development will require the owners of the domain names to come forward, as the judges declared that those representing the domain owners, such as the Internet Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) and Poker Players Alliance (PPA) do not have standing to bring the case to its final stage unless the actual owners in question of having their domains frozen come to the fore.

The case began in 2008 with a declaration from Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear that online gaming websites infringe upon Kentucky’s legalized industries like thoroughbred racing and the state lottery, and he found a court to order that 141 such sites be seized if they refused to block Kentucky residents from their businesses. An immediate appeal came from numerous organizations like the aforementioned iMEGA and PPA, along with internet freedom groups and citizens’ rights organizations like the ACLU, and the original ruling was overturned as domain names were ruled not to be “gambling devices” or subject to seizure. The Commonwealth of Kentucky appealed the case to the State Supreme Court, and both sides presented their case to the judges on October 22, 2009.

The Kentucky Supreme Court took their time with the decision but failed to include any such rendering in its list of cases decided on January 21, 2010. Parties in the case were then forced to await opinions until sometime in March, and when that happened on March 18, it seemed to only further muddy the waters.

The ruling that was issued by the high court noted that it will not move further until the owners of the 141 online gaming domain names comes forward, at which time it indicated it will lift the freeze of those domains. No additional arguments were requested by the court, but the decision of the Court of Appeals has been reversed until those with actual standing in the case come forward, at which time a petition can be filed with the Appeals Court to push the case right back to into the hands of the Supreme Court.

As stated in the opening paragraph of Commonwealth of Kentucky v. iMEGA et al, the opinion of Justice Noble began, “This case arises from an order by the Franklin Circuit Court that 141 internet domain names be seized from their owners and operators and transferred to the dominion and control of the Commonwealth. Attorneys acting on behalf of the domain names sought a writ of prohibition against the seizure, which the Kentucky Court of Appeals granted. Because the parties seeking the writ have failed, to demonstrate that they have the standing to do so, this Court reverses, though this does not foreclose the possibility of future relief.”

Further, the document went on to state that in order for the domains to obtain protection from seizure, someone directly representing the sites needed to come forward, as organizations like iMEGA had no standing to do so on their behalf. It concluded, “Due to the incapacity of domain names to contest their own seizure and the inability of iMEGA and IGC to litigate on behalf of anonymous registrants, the Court of Appeals is reversed and its writ is vacated. This case is hereby remanded to the Court of Appeals with instructions to dismiss the Appellee’s writ petition.”

iMEGA quickly released a statement about the ruling via Chairman Joe Brennan. “In the written decision, the Court clearly indicates they agree with our arguments, and are inviting us to refile, so that the technicality of the standing issue can be resolved. It’s unfortunate, but I can’t imagine that Kentucky’s lawyers will celebrate a ruling that says ‘bring us an owner, so we can rule in your favor’. We obviously would have preferred a complete, clean victory today, but reading the decision, it seems this is a technicality that is only delaying the inevitable.”

Also quick to respond to the Supreme Court ruling was the Poker Players Alliance (PPA), as Executive Director John Pappas stated, “The PPA understands the technical nature of the decision issued today by the Kentucky Supreme Court and remains confident that, once that issue is cured, the Supreme Court will address the compelling merits of the arguments in support of the Court of Appeals decision prohibiting the Commonwealth’s seizure of 141 internet gaming sites. There are fundamental freedoms at stake in this case, not only the freedom of poker players in Kentucky and globally, but internet freedom across the globe. The Commonwealth’s effort at such a bold, broad and, we believe, unlawful seizure sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who uses the internet.”

According to iMEGA, all parties previously claiming standing in the case are working with domain owners to satisfy the court’s request and file the petition in short order.

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