Kentucky Court Rules Against Gambling Groups -- For Now

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The Kentucky Supreme Court has said that one or more gambling site owners who are protesting the seizure of their domain names must come forward and identify themselves if they want to pursue their case.

The decision, issued Thursday, overturns an earlier ruling blocking the state from confiscating the domain names of more than 140 sites. The legal challenge was mounted by the trade associations Interactive Gaming Council and Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, but no individuals who owned the affected sites had come forward in the case.

Joseph Brennan, Jr., chairman of the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, says he expects that at least one owner of a site will file papers identifying himself or herself and stating that he or she would be affected by the seizure order. The trade group will then ask the state Supreme Court to rule on the substantive issues in the case.

"It's a simple matter of paperwork," Brennan says. He adds that the Supreme Court stayed its order for 20 days to give the site owners time to appear in court.

Until now, he says, individual site owners had been reluctant to identify themselves because the Kentucky authorities take the position that the sites are unlawful. Promoting gambling is a crime in Kentucky.

The litigation grows out of a state court ruling by judge Thomas Wingate in August of 2008 that allowed the governor to take control of the domain names of 141 sites like, including AbsolutePoker.com, PokerStars.com and UltimateBet.com. That order was based on a 1974 state law that allows the government to confiscate gambling devices.

Shortly afterwards, Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear praised that decision. "Unlicensed Internet gambling significantly undermines and threatens horseracing, Kentucky's signature industry and a key tourism industry, by creating unregulated and untaxed competition," his office said in a statement about the case.

Wingate later modified his order by allowing the sites to keep their names, but only if they blocked access to Kentucky residents.

The gaming organizations, joined by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Center for Democracy and Technology, and the ACLU, appealed, arguing that even the modified order was unconstitutional for several reasons, including that it restricted interstate commerce.

Last year an appellate court ruled in favor of the sites, but on the narrow technical grounds that the 1974 forfeiture law applies only to devices like roulette wheels, not domain names.

Tags: legal
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