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Kentucky Attempts to Seize Online Poker Domains

State Files Case to Stop Online Industry


Note: This story was updated at 3 p.m. PT.

Kentucky is taking on the online gambling industry by attempting to seize 141 domain names registered to online companies by using a law that allows officials to seize devices that are used to for illegal gambling. The government will try to convince a judge on Thursday that the law applies to Internet domain names and that the state should take ownership of them in order to protect its citizens

Gov. Steve Beshear announced the state's actions at a press conference that took place yesterday. The Justice Cabinet asked Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate to transfer control of the domain names to Kentucky last Thursday. The judge ordered the immediate transfer of the domain names to the state, pending the results of a forfeiture hearing, which is scheduled for Sept. 25.

According to the Governor’s office, if the judge allows this to happen, it will legally allow Kentucky to block its citizen’s from accessing the sites on the list.

The list of "dot com" domain name include ones associated with Full Tilt Poker, Doyles Room, PokerStars, BodogLife, Ultimate Bet, Absolute Poker and Cake Poker, as well as many online sports books and casinos.

Democrat Beshear, who ironically is trying to convince state politicians to permit casino gambling in Kentucky, is going after the online gambling sites because he says they’re undermining the state’s horse racing industry, allows minors easy access to the sites, and takes away taxes and licensing compensation that would normally go to the state.

Through a press release announcing this maneuver, Beshear said that Kentucky loses “tens of millions of dollars” a year to unregulated and unlicensed online gambling. He also said the unregulated industry is a threat to national security.

“Unlicensed, unregulated, illegal Internet gambling poses a tremendous threat to the citizens of the Commonwealth because of its ease, availability and anonymity,” Beshear said at Monday’s press conference. “The owners and operators of these illegal sites prey on Kentucky citizens, including our youth, and deprive the Commonwealth of millions of dollars in revenue. It’s an underworld wrought with scams and schemes.”

John Pappas, Executive Director of the Poker players Alliance, quickly disagreed with Beshear that online poker is even illegal in Kentucky. In a statement regarding Kentucky’s actions, he framed the argument as one of choice: Kentucky chooses not to regulate and license online poker.

Pappas’s entire statement follows:

The Poker Players Alliance is outraged at the actions taken by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and the Franklin County Circuit Court to seize the domain names of Internet gambling websites.  We believe this action not only unduly restricts the freedom of Kentucky residents to play games of skill, such as poker, online, but sets a precedent for censorship of the Internet by force.

Many of Governor Beshear’s arguments – that online poker is illegal, unregulated and without a mechanism to capture tax revenue – are false. Online poker is not illegal under Kentucky law, is regulated in its home jurisdiction and the Commonwealth of Kentucky chose not to license and regulate poker websites.

If the Governor truly wants to implement tighter regulations, taxation mechanisms and consumer protections on Internet gambling, the PPA suggests he publicly support federal legislation by U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, H.R. 2460, which would achieve those goals

Poker is a game of skill, a true American pastime and has a proud heritage in Kentucky. Simply because the game has evolved into the 21st Century, it should not be treated as suspect activity.  Forcefully and secretly seizing control of websites that offer online poker games is not a sound public policy or a sound legal solution.

Tags: poker law