A panel of three judges heard arguments yesterday concerning the seizure of poker site domain names by the Governor of Kentucky and his staff. The Kentucky Court of Appeals will now consider and decide upon whether or not a state has legal jurisdiction to seize the domains in order to stop them from allowing internet poker within its borders. This is the first such case in the United States and therefore the ruling of this panel of judges will set the precedence for the legal system from now forward.
The Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) had originally filed the appeal to attempt to overturn a ruling by a lower court that the seizure of the domains was legal under Kentucky law. Lawyers for the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) along with William Dean, the “dean of Kentucky lawyers,” and iMEGA’s lawyers all argued that no US state has jurisdiction over the sites since the domain names are owned by foreign companies. iMEGA’s lead attorney, Jon L. Fleischaker, noted that the US 6th Circuit Court has previously ruled that domain names are essentially equivalent to billboards. Since Kentucky allows billboards for casinos in Illinois to advertise within the state, they have no right to stop poker sites from doing the same.
On the other side of the table, the representative for the Kentucky Justice Cabinet, Eric Lycan, called online gambling sites a “massive, global, offshore criminal enterprise.” He said the owners of the sites know that they are violating the law of nearly every state in the country, but do it anyway because “they don’t think anyone can catch them.” Kentucky does allow gambling on horse racing and bingo, and of course they have a state lottery.
The judges should announce their decision soon. There will no doubt be a lot of interest in their ruling since it is the first of its kind. Stay tuned for updates as soon as they are available.