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Kentucky Governor: All Your Gambling Sites Belong to Us

According to news reports, the governor of Kentucky has filed a suit in state court to seize 141 gambling domain names. His claimed authority is a 1974 law against “gambling devices”, on the theory that a domain is a “device”, and online gambling is taking money away from in-state horse racing and the lottery. The judge sensibly has said that he doesn’t understand all the issues, and has given all sides a week to submit briefs. Two domains, highrollerslounge.com and luckypyramidcasino.com have been reassigned to the state, probably by a registrar who didn’t understand the issues either.

I have to say that this is a phenomenally bogus case.

Few of the domains have been identified, but it’d be amazing if any of them had any presence in Kentucky. The registry for .COM, the likely parent domain of most of the sites, is physically located at VeriSign in Virginia, operated under contract to ICANN which is in California, registered through registrars which are all over the world. The actual gambling sites tend to be either in East Asia or small islands in the Caribbean. There are indeed Federal laws against online gambling, but if Kentucky were using them, they’d have filed a different suit in a Federal court. Adding to the confusion, a lot of the sites offer poker which the operators claim is a game of skill, not chance, and hence it’s not gambling, a theory good enough to enable poker parlors all over the state of California, and since few sites offer pure gambling, there are First Amendment issues for the non-gambling bits.

This suit will doubtless be thrown out, but I’ll be interested to see if it adds any interesting case law to the sparse set concerning what courts have jurisdiction over what domains.

By John Levine, Author, Consultant & Speaker

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