In an unprecedented legal move, Kentucky state Governor Steve Beshear recently declared that 141 named poker and casino gambling domain names will be seized, since their corresponding websites are catering to the residents of Kentucky. Governor Beshear claimed that these domains are considered to be gaming devices, and thus, are subject to the local Kentucky laws permitting their confiscation. Beshear also DEWA POKER claimed that use 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 all 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 this makes them subject to local Kentucky law, which specifically outlaws “gaming devices”. Beshear claimed that the domain names themselves are considered to be gaming devices. As such, Beshear filed a lawsuit that requires all of these 141 gaming site domain names to be confiscated and forfeited from GoDaddy.com.
In a bizarre decision, Kentucky Franklin County Circuit Court Judge Wingate ruled in favor of the the state of Kentucky, and set a compliance date of December 3rd, 2008, for all of these websites to block access to Kentucky residents or be faced with the forfeiture of their domain names. Equally puzzling, was GoDaddy.com’s decision to abide by Judge Wingate’s legal decision.
Those fighting this decision, lawyers on behalf of 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 the state and federal levels. This could easily wind up going to the Supreme Court for ruling. They contend that the law being applied does not belong in the Cirtuit Court, since the global Internet does not apply to local law.
Currently, there has not been a general consensus from the effected gaming sites, as to 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 these gambling websites, but the final decision that they make remains to be seen.
The ramifications of this decision are enormous. If the gambling websites decide to comply and block access of their sites to Kentucky residents, then what is to stop other states from seeking the same sanctions ? More importantly, if this decision stands, what will prevent any local jurisidiction from stating that a non-local website is causing economic and industry infringement on a local business ? What if Johnny’s bookstore in Idaho, claims that Amazon.com is siphoning away business from its local store ? Will a local judge rule on the confiscation of the Amazom.com domain name, or rule that Amazon.com should block access to all Idaho residents ?
Unquestionably, Internet freedom is at stake here. The global nature of the Internet is certainly at risk given this decision, and it begs the question as to whether local law can govern or restrict global law. The future of the Internet as we know it today, may very well hinge on the final outcome and results of the appeal process