Another US state has issued what equates to their attempt at censoring the Internet. This time, it is Minnesota who has decided that it would be in the best interest of the residents of that state if they did not have access to certain companies, either through the Internet or by telephone.
The letter was issued by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety and displays the letterhead “Alcohol and Gaming Enforcement.” It is addressed to a number of Internet service providers and telephone companies, including Comcast, DishNetwork, DirecTV, Embarq, Sprint/Nextel, Verizon, AT&T, and others.
The letter states in part, “Attached is a list of online gambling sites and telephone numbers that are available to your Minnesota customers. This gambling is illegal within Minnesota. The federal statute requires upon notice by a law enforcement agency (our division is a state law enforcement agency) that you do not allow your systems to be used for the transmission of gambling information. We are therefore requesting these enterprises not be allowed to transmit gambling information to your Minnesota customers.”
The attached list is a seemingly random assortment of gambling websites, which includes a number of poker sites. Many of the sites listed do not even allow US customers though, such as Titan Poker and Party Gaming. However, also included on the list are a few sites that do welcome Americans, such as Bodog, Players Only, and Full Tilt Poker. Ironically absent is the world’s largest poker site, and one that is proud to welcome customers from the United States, PokerStars, as well as those featured prominently on 60 Minutes, Absolute Poker and Ultimate Bet.
John Willems, director of the Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division, issued a statement saying, “We are putting site operators and Minnesota online gamblers on notice and in advance. Disruption of these sites’ cash flow will negatively impact their business models. State residents with online escrow accounts should be aware that access to their accounts may be jeopardized and their funds in peril.”
The International Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) is likely one of the candidates to step up and fight the state of Minnesota on this order. They successfully went up against Kentucky when that state tried to take control of the domain names of many gambling websites because they claimed the sites broke Kentucky law. iMEGA has been, and will presumably continue to be, one of the leaders in the fight against any type of censorship of the Internet.
iMEGA chairman, Joe Brennan Jr., expressed the association’s concern, “When Mr. Willems expresses his intention to extend his ‘program’ to thousands of other sites, just what kind of sites will he be targeting? And will he be making the determination which sites are ‘legal’ and which are ‘illegal’? Because as far as we can tell, there is nothing in Minnesota or U.S. Federal law that makes these gaming or any other sites illegal, just their opinion.”
Poker players all know by now that the Unlawful Internet Gaming Enforcement Act (UIGEA) made it illegal for financial institutions to facilitate transactions with gambling websites. However, it is also clear that there has not been a federal law passed that makes it illegal to play poker on the Internet. Additionally, Barney Frank, Chairman of the Financial Services Committee, has stated that he hopes to submit new legislation this coming week (the week of May 4th). This legislation would effectively repeal the UIGEA and put in motion the legalization and regulation of Internet poker in the United States. Hopefully by the end of the week there will be some good news at least on that front.