For the last few weeks, the eyes of everyone in the online poker industry have been focused squarely on the U.S. state of Kentucky, which announced in September that it was seizing 141 casino and poker-related domain names with the intention of shutting down the online gambling sites associated with them.
Their logic? Since residents of Kentucky can access these sites, and therefore play online poker, the state of Kentucky has the right to put ‘em out of business — even though online gambling is not explicitly illegal in the U.S., and even though most of the domain names were/are owned and/or registered in other states, and other countries.
At this point, you may be asking yourself … what the @$#%? If so, you’re not alone. Most of us are absolutely bewildered by this. (Okay, bewildered, and a bit panicked.)
What’s going on here? Does Kentucky’s governor really think he can get away with this? Is this for real, or just a publicity stunt designed to drum up political support? And what if they actually get away with it?
And the names being seized are among some of online poker’s biggest sites, including PokerStars.com, AbsolutePoker.com, Bodog, and many others. (Click here for a complete list, as well as to view the original court order.)
Interestingly, this is a topic that the major U.S. media has largely ignored, until yestereday’s highly detailed article in the Washington Post. (An article we recommend, by the way — if only for this awesome analogy by an L.A. legal expert: “This is a little bit like if the Home Shopping TV network was accused of fraud, and Kentucky decided to seize the show’s cameras and set even though HSN’s real location is nowhere near the state”. Check out the article here.)
The Post article also mentioned the interesting fact that the current Kentucky Governor “was elected in part on the strength of a promise to bring casino gambling to the state.”
But, aside from the Post’s late-in-the-game coverage, it is strange that the media have not reported more on this story, given the international implications this action has. (Many of the companies threatened with losing their domains are based in the U.K., and other countries.) If this goes through, it could cause a serious blowback in foreign trade relations.
But maybe the media is ignoring this because it sees the action for what it may really be: a big PR stunt. After all, what chance does this state really have of stepping so far out of its jurisdiction and seizing property it has no conceivable right to? Or was the state of Kentucky smart enough to do this during the most intense moment in the U.S. presidential election, helping it to slip by unnoticed by the big media players?
So many questions. What do you think? Are you worred that this action will succeed, making it even more difficult for Americans (and a lot of other people) to play poker online? Or do you think that, given how much the state is overstepping its bounds here, that this is just a stunt that won’t go anywhere?
Chime in and let us know. This is your industry that’s being threatened, after all. Whether you like it or not, you’ve all been pulled into this mess. So, how can we make sure it doesn’t succeed?