Online Gambling: A Lost Cause? (6 of 8)

When you go to a website, you are accessing a computer somewhere in the world. The domain name typed into your Internet browser gives you access to a computer/server located where the site is being hosted. On April 15, 2011 the Department of Justice(DoJ) seized five .com’s: Pokerstars.com, Fulltiltpoker.com, Absolutepoker.com, Ultimatebet.com, and UB.com[1]. The seizure of these domain names by the DoJ presents a legal issue when it’s denying access to users who fall outside the jurisdiction of the United States. After the online Black Friday some companies like Bodog decided to change their top-level domain to .eu (European Union) instead of .com; this moves the gambling sites further from the reaches of the DoJ and leaves them with almost no legal way of preventing access to these sites by Americans.

Prior to the DoJ seizing numerous gambling websites, Kentucky had already attempted to seize domain names on their own. A Kentucky court allowed for 141 domain names to be seized because they were in violation of state law[2][3], regardless of the fact this would affect other states without their permission. When a domain name is seized, users where gambling is not illegal are also denied access. However, a court of appeals granted petitions by the Interactive Gaming Council, Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association, Inc.(iMEGA). The Electronic Frontier Foundation and ACLU of Kentucky filed amici briefs against the seizures and were ultimately successful.  The appellate court overturned the lower court’s ruling and reversed the State’s ability to seize the domain names.

It is not clear whether online gambling is illegal in all 50 states. When the DoJ seized the domain names of the main gambling sites, many felt this was a step too far. Professor of law and attorney I. Nelson Rose said “[after the DoJ seized these websites] The next to step through could be an Islamic country, which outlaws alcohol, seizing the worldwide domain names of every retailer and restaurant that advertises beer or wine.”[4]Americans are quick to criticize governments internationally. How would the United States have reacted if another country denied Americans access to websites that are completely legal here? When the DoJ seized the gambling domain names, they made it so that these companies would also not be able to host these websites outside of the United States using the .com.[5]

In the first amended complaint against the online gambling companies, the U.S. alleged the domain names “are properties used in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1955 and are properties involved in money laundering transactions.”[6] The U.S. then relied on 18 U.S.C. 981 (a)(1)(A) to claim this property is subject to forfeiture since “any property, real or personal, involved in a transaction in violation of section 1956 or 1957…of Title 18, relating to money laundering offenses, or any property traceable to such property is subject to forfeiture.”[7]

Opponents were successful in overturning Kentucky’s domain name seizures. The DoJ has been much more successful challenging online gambling companies and left owners scrambling to get away while they can. A few of the websites are back running on the .com while others simply set up their sites with a .eu. From an international perspective, should the United States be able to seize a domain name at will? Should there be an international body deciding when a domain name should be taken down?

 

 

 

 


[1] McLaughiln, David and Beth Jinks. Online Poker Companies Reach Accord with U.S. on Players’ Access to Money. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-04-20/online-poker-companies-reach-accord-with-u-s-on-players-access-to-money.html

[2] Commonwealth of Kentucky v. 141 Internet Domain Names. https://www.eff.org/cases/commonwealth-kentucky-v-141-internet-domain-names

[3] To view the 141 domain names that were part of the Kentucky seizure, see Exhibit A of Commonwealth v. 141 domain names here: http://www.thedomains.com/wp-content/order-of-seizure-of-domain-names.pdf

[4] Rose, Nelson I. Gambling and the Law: Black Friday- A Step Too Far. http://rose.casinocitytimes.com/article/gambling-and-the-law-black-friday-a-step-too-far-59727

[7] Id., at 85.

 

 

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~ by davidghassan on November 26, 2011.

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