Science & Technology

Kentucky Takes Over the Internet


In a sweeping move, Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear last month attempted to seize the domain names of websites that offer Internet gambling.

Beshear didn't adopt the usual posturing line about web-based gambling undermining public morality.  Rather, he argued that online gambling was taking money away from the state, both from the state lottery and from the tax revenue generated by horse racing.

Both are unlikely.  Internet poker is overwhelmingly the most popular form of online gambling.  While there's some element of chance associated with poker, it's a game of skill.  Such is why thousands of people make a living playing poker.  No one makes a living playing the lottery.  At least not for very long.

It's a dubious proposition to think that were it not for online poker, thousands of Kentuckians would be pissing their money away on poker-themed scratch-offs, which not only require no skill at all, but pay out some of the worst odds of any form of gambling.

Unfortunately, Beshear got the backing of a state judge this week.  In a fairly stunning ruling, Kentucky Franklin Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate wrote that, "The Internet, with all its benefits and advantages to modern-day commerce and life, is still not above the law, whether on an international or municipal level."

The implications of that sentence are pretty profound.  If it's upheld, it would mean that web-based businesses would have to familiarize themselves with the laws of every government entity in the world, then tailor their websites to conform to local law.  Otherwise, they'd risk having their domains seized by local governments.

Seems like the Internet porn industry would be the next logical target.