The world of poker is still fluctuating between states of anger and anxiety after Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate delayed his decision on Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s attempt to seize the domain names of 141 online gambling sites. The judge saying that he needed more time to work through the many arguments presented in court yesterday. The hearing was the culmination of a few weeks of heated debate in the media, following Beshear’s claim that the sites were breaching state law.
Lawyers from both sides met in the courtroom yesterday to present their cases before the Judge Wingate. A cadre of non-government lawyers represented the state of Kentucky, who began their arguments by pointing out that none of the sites owners had turned up to court. This, he claimed, was due to their knowledge of their wrongdoing. To counter claims that poker is a game of skill and should not be treated as gambling, he noted that many of the poker websites among the 141 accused refer to poker as gambling themselves. He also referenced a few previous cases to show that there is a precedent for domain names being seized.
There were a whole host of lawyers representing the gaming industry. Some from the sites themselves, some from the owners of the domain names and some from industry groups such as the PPA and iMEGA. They began by arguing that a domain name is not a gambling device and so is not outlawed under Kentucky law. A domain name functions as an address, just like that of your house, and is therefore not the same type of object as those specifically outlawed.
A number of arguments were made against the state having the power to affect international and inter-state commerce. The domain names in question are based, largely, outside of the US and most of them have sizable business concerns oversees. If Kentucky were allowed to restrict access to these sites it could drastically affect the economies of countries all around the world. It was also noted that, if they were to gain control over the domain names, it might violate the US Constitution’s Commerce Clause.
Steve Beshear has been unapologetic in stating that he is at least partly motivated by his concerns for the Kentucky horse racing industry. To this end, gambling industry lawyers, noted that the horse-betting site TwinSpires.com – which is based in Kentucky – was not included in the 141 long list and provided further evidence of the governor’s hypocrisy.
The vast majority of the sites targeted by the case submitted an objection when the case first came to court a few weeks ago, although a few who did not had their domain names handed over to Kentucky. Late last night that fate befell a few more unlucky companies. GoDaddy, one of the largest domain registrars relinquished control over domain names including DoylesRoom.com, CakePoker.com and UltimateBet.com. Thankfully for players on those sites the judge ruled, during yesterday’s case, that Kentucky were barred from shutting down the domain names until he had declared his final verdict next Wednesday.
Many of the other registrars who own domain names featured in Mr. Beshear’s list, particularly those based abroad, have vowed to ignore the ruling, should it not fall in their favor. The Kentucky Commonwealth came in for more criticism today as the Grand Chief of the Mohawk Council of Kahnawake, Michael, Ahrinhihon Delisle Jr. bemoained the fact that ” [Beshear’s] actions will also adversely affect the members of our community – and that is not acceptable.” The council is responsible for the Kanhawake Gaming Commision as well as a number of companies that are based within its land.