Judge Wingate Upholds Original Ruling, Amends Seizure OrderPublished on October 17th, 2008 4:31 am EST
Judge Wingate's ruling was handed down earlier today regarding the Commonwealth of Kentucky's move to seize 141 of the biggest online gambling URLs in the industry. The decision was not a good one for the online gambling industry, as Judge Wingate dismissed various motions filed by the defense and amended the Court's original Seizure Order.
Many of the biggest online gambling URLs in the world were targeted by the Commonwealth for forfeiture. These URLs included fulltiltpoker.com, pokerstars.com, ultimatebet.com and doylesroom.com.
There was a hearing last week in which representatives from both sides made their arguments. The defense was well-represented by the likes of the Poker Players Alliance, Internet Commerce Association, Network Solutions, IMEGA and The Interactive Gaming Council (IGC). In the end though, their compelling and persuasive arguments fell on deaf ears. The judge indicated that he would need a week to make his decision, and ultimately sided with the Commonwealth of Kentucky. He denied motions set forth by the Interactive Gaming Council, IMEGA, "the Group of 7" and the "Group of 2." He denied a motion to intervene set forth by the Interactive Gaming Council, and ultimately amended the court's original seizure order.
Here is what the judge ordered in regards to the 141 Domain Names:
The defendants will have 30 days (from October 16th, 2008) to install geographic blocks that prevent access by residents of Kentucky. They will then have to prove to the Court that the blocks are "operational." Once the Court has been satisfied that residents of the Commonwealth of Kentucky can no longer access the site, the URL will be "relieved" from the effects of the Seizure Order. The Commonwealth will then serve written notice to the domain name registrar of the URL that has gained compliance that the Seizure Order has been withdrawn.
The final hearing for the forfeiture is set for November 17th, 2008.
Some of the companies that own domains listed in the Seizure Order have indicated that they are simply going to ignore the ruling. Pokerstars.com, for instance, have their domain with a foreign registrar and their registrar publicly stated that they are going to ignore the ruling. Other companies have their domains with registrars such as Godaddy.com. Godaddy.com has indicated that they will comply with the Court's ruling, which means that domain names such as Ultimatebet.com and Doylesroom.com will be seized on November 17th unless those two companies can show that they have successfully blocked residents of Kentucky. It is unknown what actions registrars such as Network Solutions will take at this point.
This sounds simple enough - these sites demonstrate to the court that they have blocked access to residents of Kentucky and go on their way. However -
1. The ruling says that the owners of the domains will have to establish to the court (in person, I am assuming) that they have blocked access to residents of Kentucky. Many of these owners will not step foot within the United States for fear of being arrested, so you could see how this might be a problem.
2. Which state will be next? Are all of the remaining states going to follow suit?
There is no word yet as to what the next step will be for the defendants.
People are also anxiously awaiting the reaction of the Kahnawake Gaming Commission to this ruling. They warned Governor Beshear before the hearing that a seizure of the listed domains would "adversely affect the members of our community and that is not acceptable." Many of the domains listed in the seizure order are licensed by the Commission, so they will predictably be furious over this ruling.
I would expect that the news of this ruling will spread quickly throughout the mainstream media. This is not just an online gambling issue - it is an issue that could end up influencing many different industries.
It will be interesting to see what happens between now and November 17th. Some of the companies involved (Pokerstars, Full Tilt Poker) planned ahead and will simply ignore the ruling. Some of the companies will be forced to set up alternative domain names (with foreign registrars) and redirect traffic to the new domains. It will be interesting to see if anyone will show up in court to prove that they have blocked the residents of Kentucky from accessing their domain.
All in all, a disappointing ruling, but one that will surely be challenged.
You can read the entire decision here.
Filed Under: Poker Legal Issues