Kentucky Reverses Seizure of 141 Gambling-Related Domain Names

By Eric Goldman

Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association v. Wingate ex rel Kentucky, 08-CI-01409 (Ky. Ct. App. Jan. 20, 2009)

We see state enforcement agencies freak out about the Internet all the time, so I have a hard time determining which freakouts are more noteworthy than others. However, it definitely caught my attention when Kentucky tried to seize 141 domain names associated with worldwide gambling operations. Their objective was to shut down illegal gambling in Kentucky, but the domain name seizure would have the effect of shutting down those websites worldwide–even if the gambling site was legal with respect to some of its non-Kentucky users. This kind of extraterritorial impact should be categorically outside the province of individual states.

So it’s a relief to see that the Kentucky court system has corrected its errors and rejected the seizure of the domain names. The judges don’t agree on the matter, and we get 3 opinions out of a 3 judge panel. However, two of the judges emphatically agreed that domain names do not qualify as “gambling devices” under the statutory definition, making their seizure under the statute unlawful. Relying on this definition in the statute sidesteps the many important public policy issues underlying the case, but it’s a good (and IMO correct) result nonetheless.