KY Supreme Court Rules in Favor of State in Domain Name Case

Gov. Beshear believes seizing the online domain names will protect Kentucky's horse racing industry

Gov. Steve Beshear (Photo courtesy of the Louisville Courier-Journal)

Five months after the Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments in the longstanding case regarding the seizure of 141 online gambling domain names the Court issued a ruling in favor of the State Thursday morning. Those fearing the immediate seizure and closure of their favorite online poker rooms may not need to panic just yet though, as the court’s decision appears to be based more on a technicality rather than whether or not the Commonwealth of Kentucky has the authority to seize domain names.

In the fall of 2008 Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear first issued the order to seize 141 domain names related to gambling including FullTiltPoker.com, DoylesRoom.com and PokerStars.com. Since then, the state and several pro-online gambling lobbying groups like the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) and the Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) have been engaged in a back and forth legal battle that eventually led to the case being heard in the State Supreme Court.

While the Court of Appeals previously ruled in favor of those representing the online gambling sites, the Supreme Court sided with the State in its decision. The 6-0 opinion in favor of the state claims that one of the owners of one of the affected gambling sites must appear in court as a plaintiff in order to contest Kentucky’s actions. “Although all such arguments may have merit, none can even be considered unless presented by a party with standing,” stated Justice Mary Noble in the court’s written opinion on the case.

Though the Court ruled in favor of the State, its written opinion left the door wide open for the case to be revisited should one of the owners of the seized domain names step forward and claim their legal standing in the case.

Executive Director of the Poker Players Alliance (PPA) John Pappas commented on the ruling in a statement from the lobbying organization. “The PPA understands the technical nature of the decision issued today by the Kentucky Supreme Court and remains confident that, once that issue is cured, the Supreme Court will address the compelling merits of the arguments in support of the Court of Appeals decision prohibiting the Commonwealth’s seizure of 141 internet gaming sites,” Pappas explained. “There are fundamental freedoms at stake in this case, not only the freedom of poker players in Kentucky and globally, but Internet freedom across the globe. The Commonwealth’s effort at such a bold, broad and, we believe, unlawful seizure sets a dangerous precedent for anyone who uses the Internet.“

There has been no official word yet on whether or not any of the owners of these sites are going to identify themselves and appeal the decision, however iMEGA chairman Joe Brennan did issue a statement saying iMEGA would be taking immediate action to satisfy the Court and get them to revisit the decision.

“We obviously would have preferred a complete, clean victory today, but reading the decision, it seems this is a technicality that is only delaying the inevitable,” Brennan said.

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