Civil Disobedience

Kentucky Reign

State-owned gambling domains

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In 2007 Democrat Steve Beshear was elected governor of Kentucky after pledging to expand state-run gambling. Once in office, Beshear found that competition from online gambling was a huge obstacle. So in September 2008, his state filed a civil suit against absolutepoker.com, fulltiltpoker.com, goldencasino.com, and 138 other websites for exploiting its citizens. The Bluegrass State'sdemand: Block access for Kentucky-based gamblers, or we'll take over your domain names.

The Interactive Media Entertainment Gaming Association filed a brief arguing that seizing the names would violate the Constitution. The state insists its aims are more modest. "Our goal has never been owning those domain names," said Jennifer Brislin, a spokesman for Kentucky's Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. "We're looking for the owners of the domain names to pay damages to Kentucky. The domain names are just the door to online casinos that are taking money from the state."

The governor's rhetoric isn't so modest. Introducing the lawsuit, Beshear said that bold action was needed because terrorists might benefit from online gambling. "This," he declared, "isa threat to national security."

On October 16, a Franklin Circuit judge allowed the state's seizure case to continue and set up a hearing for November 17.