Kentucky Governor Calls Online Gambling Websites Leeches

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FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) _ Kentucky's pro-gambling governor is looking to make sure all bets are off for more than 140 online gambling Web sites that operate in the state known for the world's biggest horse race.

Gov. Steve Beshear said his administration has asked a Franklin County Circuit Court judge to give the state control of 141 gambling Web site domain names. Beshear said he's looking to restrict Kentuckians' access to Web sites with names that include some of the most popular gambling sites for U.S. players: bodoglife.com, doylesroom.com and fulltiltpoker.com.

A hearing is scheduled for Thursday before Judge Thomas Wingate.

Beshear believes Kentucky is the first in the country to attempt to block online gambling by taking over Web domain names of gambling sites.

"Unlike casinos that operate on land or on riverboats in the United States, these operations pay no tax revenues, provide no jobs and yield no tourism benefits," Beshear said at a Monday afternoon Capitol press conference. "They are leeches on our communities."

Kentucky, home to the Kentucky Derby, already has a state lottery and allows gambling at horse tracks and bingo halls. Blocking internet gambling sites in Kentucky would "protect the signature industry," Beshear said.

Such sites "siphon off money from regulated and legal games such as Kentucky's thoroughbred racing industry, our lottery and charitable gaming activities," Beshear said.

Although Kentucky officials did not have a definite estimate of how much money is being lost to online gambling in Kentucky, Beshear claimed residents were wagering millions online.

Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown said the state is asking the court to forfeit control of the domain names to Kentucky state government. Brown said if successful, the domain names would then controlled by Kentucky state government and subsequently blocked.

"There is gambling going on on the Internet and we know that that gambling is illegal in the commonwealth of Kentucky," Brown said.

Beshear, a Democrat, largely based his campaign for governor last year on a pledge to push for an amendment to the state constitution legalizing casino gambling in Kentucky. Beshear was unable to persuade Kentucky lawmakers earlier this year to put a proposed gambling amendment on the ballot this fall.

Beshear claimed casino gambling could bring state coffers about $500 million per year in money that could be used to bolster state spending in areas such as education or health care.

Mike Jackness, co-owner of Costa Rica-based pokersourceonline.com which is not mentioned in the pending Kentucky lawsuit, said through a spokesman that he was disappointed in Kentucky's move. Online gambling faces regulation elsewhere, Jackness said in a statement read by spokesman Dan Cypra.

"I'm disappointed that Gov. Beshear would choose to prohibit what grown adults have access to in the comfort of their own homes," Jackness said in the statement. "Online poker is enjoyed by millions of Americans as a recreational sport."

John Pappas, executive director of the Washington D.C.-based Poker Players Alliance, said in a statement that the move was "extraordinary and ill-conceived." Pappas said he does not believe that Internet poker violates state or federal law.

"Poker has a proud heritage in Kentucky and simply because the game has evolved into the 21st Century, it should not be treated as suspect activity," Pappas said.

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