A bit like trying to play with a short stack, this kind of vague sense of desperation. I’m gonna have to do something! But my options seem severely limited.
Speaking of running on empty, I wanted to follow up on that civil action going on over in Kentucky. Would like to think Ky. Governor Steve Beshear (and the “Commonwealth”) haven’t much fuel to get this one going. But the more I read about it, the less sure I am that’s the case.
For those of you following along at home, the hearing that was scheduled to take place yesterday afternoon in a Franklin County Circuit courtroom in Frankfort regarding the possible forfeiture to the Commonwealth of Kentucky of 141 internet domain names currently hosting online gambling sites was delayed until today (Friday) at 3:30 p.m.
Reading around some yesterday on the forums and various websites, I think I’m getting a little better picture of the logistics of all of this. The Poker Players Alliance has gathered together links to various articles and forum discussions in one handy place. There’s also a link in there to that five-minute audio clip of Kentucky governor Steve Beshear announcing the civil action from earlier this week.
Kentucky -- led by the governor -- wishes to prohibit users with Kentucky-based IP addresses from accessing the online gambling sites currently hosted on those 141 dot-coms. In the statement (from the audio clip), Gov. Beshear also mentions wanting to try to get the sites to “pay damages” to Kentucky for having “siphon[ed] off money from regulated and legal games such as Kentucky’s thoroughbread racing industry, our lottery, and charitable gaming activities” (which gives one a pretty clear idea who is really motivating this effort). He suggests the sites have managed to grab “tens of millions of dollars” from Kentucky residents via what he regards as “illegal activity.”
Actually, it doesn’t appear as though this stated desire for damages is really part of the civil action (I don’t see it mentioned anywhere in the order, anyhow). More likely just a threat suggesting what might happen should things not go their way today. But what does seem clear is should the 141 domains not agree to block Kentuckians access to the sites, Kentucky wants to seize the domains altogether (and, one would presume, shut down the sites).
Now why we have already seen headlines saying things like “Ky. Seizes Domain Names of Web Gambling Sites”? Well -- and this is truly surprising to discover -- apparently control of the 141 domains has already been granted to the state of Kentucky. That’s what we are seeing being reported here and there. That’s also what Gov. Beshear says happened in his statement. An order to seize the domains was filed last week, and the Circuit Court judge granted it. Seems very odd that could be possible -- that a state circuit court judge could even have the ability to grant such a request. But it also seems that is where we are at the moment.
This afternoon’s hearing, then, is a “forfeiture hearing,” meaning what is to be decided is whether or not the original owners of the domains are going to have to give up control of those domains permanently to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. And if the sites are unwilling to block Kentucky residents’ access, that is when the Commonwealth will request the domains be handed over in order to stop once and for all them Kentuckians from playing their online bingo.
Like I say, what is really weird here -- and genuinely troubling -- is that ownership of the domain names has already been transferred, per the Circuit Court judge’s granting of last week’s order.
What happens if somehow the forfeiture is granted? Some of the smaller sites will likely give up their operations, I’d think. The larger ones will surely gravitate to new domains, much like Bodog did about a year ago. (That was a totally different matter, incidentally, involving a lawsuit regarding a patent infringement claim and a failure by Bodog’s representatives to appear in court, resulting in Bodog losing the Bodog.com domain.)
Also, while I’m not completely clear on how it all works, I think it may be true that for some (most?) of the sites, the actual “poker room” where we play isn’t technically hosted on the domain, and so it may well operate normally, though the websites (from which one downloads the software) would no longer be up.
All of which is to say, even if the domains get forfeited, we’re still playing poker. In other words, we’ll find the sites. Including those of us who live in Kentucky. But in an already uncertain environment of online poker, suddenly everyone will be on the run.
Hopefully we’ll all have enough gas to get where we wanna go.
(EDIT [added 9/27/08]: As those of you following the case have probably heard, a continuance was granted in court on Friday, giving all parties another week to prepare their cases. Sounds like several [not all] of the sites are desirous to fight the attempted seizure of the domains. Another issue here is the need for the owners of those sites to identify themselves. For more on the continuance, read here.)