In a unprecedented legal move, Kentucky state Governor Steve Beshear recently declared that 141 named poker and casino gambling domain names is likely to be seized, since their corresponding websites are catering to the residents of Kentucky. Governor Beshear claimed that these domains are regarded as being gaming devices, and thus, are susceptible to the neighborhood Kentucky laws permitting their confiscation. Beshear also claimed that usage of these gambling sites by Kentucky residents, is directly cutting into Kentucky’s local industries, namely its state-sanctioned horse-racing and lottery industries.
Although most of the named gambling websites are physically located outside of the United States (and are regulated by their local jurisdictions), the domain names themselves are registered with a U.S.-based registrar (GoDaddy.com). Thus, Beshear claimed that makes them susceptible to local Kentucky law, which specifically outlaws “gaming devices “.Beshear claimed that the domain names themselves are regarded as being gaming devices. Therefore, Beshear filed a lawsuit that needs many of these 141 gaming site domain names to be confiscated and forfeited.
In a bizarre decision, Kentucky Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Wingate ruled and only the their state of Kentucky, and set a compliance date of December 3rd, 2008, for many of these websites to block usage of Kentucky residents or be confronted with the forfeiture of their domain names lms99 . Equally puzzling, was GoDaddy.com’s decision to follow Judge Wingate’s legal decision.
Those fighting this decision, lawyers with respect to the Internet Gaming Counsel and the Interactive Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (IMEGA), plan on fighting the constitutionality of this decision, and plan on appealing at both their state and federal levels. This might easily find yourself likely to the Supreme Court for ruling. They contend that the law being applied doesn’t belong in the Cirtuit Court, because the global Internet doesn’t affect local law.
Currently, there has not been a broad consensus from the effected gaming sites, regarding whether or not they plan on abiding by the court’s decision. From early indications, it appears that there has been general “ignoring” of the decision on the part of those gambling websites, but the final decision they make remains to be seen.
The ramifications of this decision are enormous. If the gambling websites opt to comply and block access of their sites to Kentucky residents, then what is to prevent other states from seeking the same sanctions ? Moreover, if this decision stands, what’ll prevent any local jurisidiction from stating a non-local website is causing economic and industry infringement on a nearby business ? Imagine if Johnny’s bookstore in Idaho, claims that Amazon.com is siphoning away business from its local store ? Will a nearby judge rule on the confiscation of the Amazom.com domain name, or rule that Amazon.com should block access to any or all Idaho residents ?
Unquestionably, Internet freedom is at stake here. The global nature of the Internet is obviously at risk with all this decision, and it begs the question regarding whether local law can govern or restrict global law. The continuing future of the Internet as we realize it today, may perfectly hinge on the final outcome and results of the appeal process.
Douglas Hayman, President of Expert Software Systems, is an internet and database developer and designer, that designs and hosts many different informational websites, such as: