Last week the Kentucky Supreme Court made a ruling in the ongoing efforts by the state to seize 141 gambling domain names. The court ruled that it believed iMEGA and the Interactive Gaming Council did not have standing in the case and would only address the actual owners of the sites or at least wanted iMEGA to prove it represented the gambling sites owners.
As a result, the court refused to affirm the Court of Appeals ruling which decreed that the state could not seize the domain names. The Commonwealth of Kentucky was attempting to seize the domain names claiming that URL addresses were 'gambling devices' used by sites which were illegally taking bets from Kentucky residents.
The first judge to hear the case, Justice Thomas D. Wingate, ruled in favor of the state but it was quickly overturned by a court of appeals which stated that "It stretches credulity to conclude that a series of numbers, or Internet address, can be said to constitute a "machine or any mechanical or other device ... designed and manufactured primarily for use in connection with gambling." The State, unhappy with that decision, appealed their motion the state Supreme Court.
Joe Brennan Jr., the Chairman of iMEGA suggested that he didn't consider the highest Court decision to be completely negative because the Supreme Court justices weren't averse to the trade organization's arguments. The court simply wanted proof that iMEGA was representing real entities. In a press release posted on iMEGA's site, Brennan stated "All along, it seemed the Court wanted to go our way, and this decision today indicates that is still the case. The Court is telling us that all that is necessary is for one domain owner to come forward, and we likely win."
Today iMEGA announced that a domain name owner has come forward, thereby fulfilling the requirement set out by the Supreme Court to prove that iMEGA has standing. Brennan wrote in a press release "The owners of the TruePoker.com domain have taken a big step on the behalf of the industry and players. We've overcome the technicalities that gave the Commonwealth their short-lived victory. The Court can now make a decision based on Kentucky law. Based on the language of the decision last week we know the Court wants to do just that. We know that the law favors us, and frankly, so does the Commonwealth's attorneys."
The announcement by iMEGA was made shortly after State attorneys issued a third amendment to their initial complaint reiterating their belief that the owners were unknown entities and must identify themselves.
In the amendment the State pointed to Full Tilt Poker and suggested that the company has done everything in its power to hide their true identity and because of their "shenanigans" they have no right to maintain their domain name. Infact in the 8th paragraph of the complaint the Commonwealth referred to Full Tilt defendants as "shams and alter egos of one another and their individual owners." Other major websites that the state is hoping to seize includes but are not limited to doylesroom.com, bookmaker.com, englishharbor.com, goldenpalace.com, pokerstars.com, sportsbetting.com, sportsbook.com, sportsinteraction.com and wsex.com. Justice Wingate refused to consider the amendment at this time however, since the Supreme Court hadn't made a final ruling in the matter.
While iMEGA is confident that the Supreme Court will find that TruePoker's motion is enough to satisfy the court, iMEGA represents all 141 domain names and it remains to be seen whether or not that holds true. Without question the state attorneys will contend that one domain name owner coming forward isn't sufficient proof that iMEGA represents all the domain names and will likely ask the courts to order that the owners themselves must make a physical appearance in front of the court. But naturally this wouldn't be an option since the U.S. has shown time and time again that anyone connected to gambling websites will be arrested upon stepping foot in the U.S. And as was seen with the Jay Cohen case from 2000, it's virtually impossible for gambling site owners to get a fair trial.
Nevertheless Brennan believes the Supreme Court will not make that type of ruling and points out that TruePoker.com is a corporation and their acknowledgement that iMEGA represents them is enough. Brennan stated "The owner (of TruePoker.com) is a corporation, not a person. Given the requirements set by the KY Supreme Court, they do not need someone from the corporation to make an appearance, and there would be no forum to do so anyway, since there is no discovery at the appellate level. I will not be required to make an appearance, either." Brennan also suggested that there is precedence that one entity is sufficient to show standing.
"The court made the requirement that we offer proof that "one or more" of our members have been injured (p.2, pp.2), and in referring to CFIT v. VeriSign (p.10, pp.2), in which CFIT produced a single member (Pool.com) to establish their association's standing, iMEGA has met that standard through our own and Yamaha Limited's affidavits."
Without question the Kentucky Domain name case has been one of the strangest maneuvers within the United States to block gambling sites from accessing the U.S. market and as was pointed out by numerous attorneys, free speech advocates and civil rights groups following the initial ruling by Thomas Wingate that if successful, could have set a dangerous precedent that the U.S. would regret for a long time.
Let's hope for the sake of the gambling sites, internet users and anyone who values basic freedoms that the Supreme Court throws out this ridiculous motion once and for all.
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