FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Kentucky may not seize 141 online casinos'
Internet domain names in an attempt to block them from operating
within the state's borders, an appeals panel ruled Tuesday.
In a 2-1 opinion, a three-judge panel of the Kentucky Court of
Appeals said an Internet domain name is not a gambling device. That
left the Franklin County Circuit Court without jurisdiction in the
"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,"' Judge Michelle Keller wrote
in the majority opinion. "We are thus convinced that the trial
court clearly erred in concluding that the domain names can be
construed to be gambling devices subject to forfeiture."
The state sued the Web sites after determining that they allowed
Kentuckians to gamble illegally and asked a judge to either force
the sites to block Kentucky users or allow the state to take
possession of the domain names. Kentucky already allows gambling on
horse racing and bingo and has a state lottery.
Attorneys for the state and the Web sites have estimated that
about 13,000 people in Kentucky use the online casinos.
Gov. Steve Beshear spokeswoman Jill Midkiff said officials had
received the ruling late Tuesday, were still studying it and had
not decided what the state's next step would be.
The appellate panel also ruled the circuit court cannot hold a
hearing on whether Kentucky may seize the domain names. Keller's
opinion said it's up to the General Assembly - not the courts nor
the state Justice Cabinet - to bring domain names into the
definition of illegal gambling devices.
Jeremiah Johnston, president of the Washington D.C.-based
Internet Commerce Association, said he was pleased by the ruling.
Still, Johnston said the court did not address whether the state
had the authority to involve itself in seizing domain names of
internationally based companies.
"That wild card is still out there," Johnston said. "In the
end, it's a positive ruling, so we'll take it."
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)