Kentucky governor seizes gambling site domains

Justice scales

Online gambling is under attack in the United States once again - this time by the governor of Kentucky. Governor Steve Beshear asked the courts for and was granted the ability to take control of 141 online gambling sites' domain names.

The move is an attempt by the governor to block those sites from doing business in Kentucky. According to a Kentucky Post story, the suit was filed by the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet on behalf of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, and the courts granted the request.

The domain names will be transferred to the control of the state of Kentucky until a hearing is held to determine if forfeiture of the domains will be required. Judge Thomas Wingate has ordered a forfeiture hearing in the matter for Thursday.

Governor Beshear claims that Kentucky and its residents lose tens of millions of dollars each year to online gambling. By seizing the domain names of some of the top sites that still serve U.S. customers, the state hopes to block those sites from providing online gambling to its residents.

"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, according to the Associated Press. "They are leeches on our communities."

Among the online gambling domain names that Beshear is asking to seize are some of the industry's top poker sites that still do business with U.S. customers, including Bodog Poker, Full Tilt Poker and Doyles Room.

Kentucky law

Despite being businesses based outside the United States, the online gambling sites' domain names are vulnerable to U.S. jurisdiction because they are stored with a registrar located in the United States.

Kentucky is also uniquely positioned to bring action against Internet gambling operators because it considers domain names to be forfeitable under its gambling laws.

With the exception of horse race betting and state lotteries, gambling is illegal in Kentucky under KRS Chapter 528. Under that same law, any gambling device or gambling record possessed or used in violation of the law is forfeited to the state.

According to the law, a gambling device could be any machine or mechanical device manufactured primarily for the use in connection with gambling. In a hearing last week, the court found probable cause exists to believe that the domain names were being used in connection with illegal gambling in the state.

Most gambling may be illegal in Kentucky, but Beshear actually campaigned for governor last year on a pledge to push for the legalization of casino gambling in the state. So far he has been unable to convince lawmakers to put a proposed gambling amendment on the ballot to change the laws.

Local opposition

Some readers have already pointed out the inconsistency in Beshear's policies on gambling.

"It has become more apparent that Gov. Beshear is nothing more than a shill for the gaming industry," wrote mtnmachine on Monday.

Mtnmachine also points out that Kentucky is facing all sorts of problems such as increasing poverty, health care issues, an education system that is ranked in the bottom of the nation and plenty of other issues, but Beshear has chosen online gambling as a top priority.

"I guess that he still believes that 'legitimate' gambling with brick and mortar casinos will bring our state prosperity. I guess that he believes that they do not prey on poor people. The lottery was supposed to boost our education system, but it has not and the only people that buy a ticket are the financially destitute," mntmachine wrote.

"It is simply ridiculous ... We need to remind the Governor Beshear that he should be focusing on more important and pressing needs, and quit catering to his own special interests."

Another commenter, peoplestandup, agreed that Beshear is only looking out for his own self-interest with the move against the online gambling industry.

"Furthermore, and which I feel is by far worse, what right does he and/or any other Government body have, to instruct the public, [what] they can and cannot do (within reason), in the privacy of their own homes? Ahh, they pick and choose which 'bad', lines their own pockets more," peoplestandup wrote.

"Citizens of Kentucky should be appalled and not allow Government to pass laws, based on nothing more than a pitiful, incorrect self-interest, which invade the privacy of their homes!"

peoplestandup also makes that point that if the government limits a person's freedom to gamble online, perhaps there'll soon be a law limiting how many six-packs a person can buy per week or a limit on the amount of lottery tickets a person can buy.

But Beshear actually encourages the purchase of lottery tickets, which is in complete contradiction to his reasons as to why online gaming should be outlawed, according to peoplestandup.

National opposition

It's not just Kentucky citizens who are expressing their outrage by the state's move on online gambling. John Pappas, executive director of the Poker Players Alliance, also released a statement on the matter.

"The Poker Players Alliance is outraged at the actions taken by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear and the Franklin County Circuit Court to seize the domain names of Internet gambling websites," Pappas said.

"We believe this action not only unduly restricts the freedom of Kentucky residents to play games of skill, such as poker, online, but sets a precedent for censorship of the Internet by force."

Pappas points out that many of Beshear's arguments that online poker is illegal, unregulated and without a mechanism to capture tax revenue are false.

"Online poker is not illegal under Kentucky law, is regulated in its home jurisdiction and the Commonwealth of Kentucky chose not to license and regulate poker Web sites," Pappas said.

"If the Governor truly wants to implement tighter regulations, taxation mechanisms and consumer protections on Internet gambling, the PPA suggests he publicly support federal legislation by U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Chairman Barney Frank, H.R. 2460, which would achieve those goals."

Pappas reiterated the PPA's stance that poker is a game of skill, not just a game of chance like many other gambling activities. Plus the game has a proud heritage in Kentucky.

"Simply because the game has evolved into the 21st Century, it should not be treated as suspect activity," Pappas said. "Forcefully and secretly seizing control of websites that offer online poker games is not a sound public policy or a sound legal solution."

The PPA is a nonprofit membership organization of more than 1 million online and offline poker players and enthusiasts who have joined together to promote the game and protect players' rights. The organization has more than 13,000 members in Kentucky.

Related Articles:

Best Poker Sites - Editor`s Pick

Latest Blogs »