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Kentucky Forecast For Gambling Domains Not Clear

Written by:
C Costigan
Published on:
Jan/06/2009
Kentucky Gambling Domains

A Kentucky Court of Appeals is expected to issue a ruling shortly on whether the commonwealth can seize 141 online gambling domain names.

Jennifer Brislin, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet, told PC World that the agency sought to shut down the gambling sites last year to protect Kentucky citizens from an "illegal, unregulated and untaxed industry." The state argued that the sites promoted online gambling activities that are illegal in Kentucky.

"We think we should have the ability to exercise our laws when illegal business is being conducted inside the borders of our state," Brislin said. "Our only goal is to have these sites blocked within our borders. In no way do we want to be the owners of these domain names."

In an amicus brief filed in the appeals court, Matthew Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) a San Francisco-based advocacy group, called the Franklin County Circuit Court's ruling "unconstitutional and made without jurisdictional authority."

"The principle that the State of Kentucky is trying to convince the court of is that if a local jurisdiction doesn't like the content of a Web site they can issue an order forcing a domain name registrar or other intermediary " to take the site down," Zimmerman said. "One can easily imagine a repressive regime somewhere saying it doesn't like the [content] on a site, and ordering "middlemen" to take it down.

Zimmerman said that he expects the the three-judge Kentucky Court of Appeals panel to issue a ruling later this month. The lower court order has been stayed until the appeals court rules.

Joe Brennan, founder of the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (IMEGA), a Washington D.C.-based trade group, said that upholding the order would allow governments to go after any website of their choosing, not just online gambling ventures.

Some of the sites have already shut down as a result of the original circuit court decision.

"This has created an awful lot of confusion," he said.

Most notably, Microgaming, one of the leading online casino and poker providers, has shut down its corporate website to US customers entirely.  BetCRIS.com has done the same, though its other brands are still accessible to those living in the States.

While it is possible to block entire countries from accessing websites, it is nearly impossible to block specific regions within a country, including states such as Kentucky.

Brennan, Jr. has told Gambling911.com Kentucky should not be permitted to suppress free speech.

"We (iMEGA) do not believe our members should have to block access to Kentucky citizens," he said.

Christopher Costigan, Gambling911.com Publisher 

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