In a lawsuit filed Wednesday with the federal district court in Minnesota, the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association argues that the state's anti-gambling initiative is unconstitutional.
John Willems, director of the Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division of Minnesota's public safety department, recently sent letters to 11 Internet service providers asking them to prevent state residents from accessing around 200 gambling-related Web sites.
The gaming organization argues that the request is unlawful for a host of reasons. The group contends that it is not technologically possible to block Minnesota residents alone from accessing the sites. The organization also asserts that multiple Web sites sometimes share the same Internet protocol address, making it impossible to block some gambling sites' IP addresses without also running the risk of barring non-gaming sites.
"We simply want Minnesota to rescind the order," said Joe Brennan, chairman of the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association. He added that only 44 sites on the blacklist even accept U.S. gambling dollars. The remaining 78% only offer information in the U.S.
The association also argues that request violates the free speech rights of the Web sites as well as state residents, noting that some of the sites on Willems' blacklist contain material that is clearly lawful. For instance, the group argues, the Wild Jack Casino offers a history of casino gambling on its site, while Full Tilt Poker publishes a blog that contains posts about the economy and charitable giving.
"Blocking all Minnesotans' access to those sites would prevent Minnesotans from accessing indisputably legal material that is of public concern and that is protected by the First Amendment," the group writes.
Willems based his request on a federal statute that allows law enforcement officials to demand that common carriers stop transmitting gambling information. But the gaming group says that Internet service providers are not considered "common carriers."
Outside legal experts agree with that assessment, pointing to a 2005 U.S. Supreme Court ruling and subsequent Federal Communications Commission decision saying that broadband providers aren't common carriers.