Full Tilt circumvents Kentucky case

22 October 2009
The Kentucky Supreme Court heard arguments Thursday on whether the Commonwealth of Kentucky has the right to seize online gambling domains because domains are "gambling devices" that violate gambling law. The Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled earlier this year that online gambling domains were not "gambling devices" under Kentucky law, and therefore could not be seized.

The January ruling by the Court of Appeals represented the biggest legal victory for the online gambling industry in the U.S. since the passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act in 2006. But that wasn't enough for Full Tilt Poker. Instead of waiting around to see if the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the decision, Full Tilt went to court in the U.K. to prevent Kentucky from seizing its domain -- and it won.

Judge Michael Furness ruled last week that Safenames, the British domain registrar used by Full Tilt, can't transfer Full Tilt Poker's domains to Kentucky under British law because "Kentucky's proceedings are not enforceable in English law."

Full Tilt had asked the High Court for this injunction because Safenames had not guaranteed that it would not comply with the Kentucky seizure order.

Attorneys for Kentucky were asked to appear before the court, but declined to do so.

Full Tilt attorney Romie Tager argued before the court that complying with the potential seizure order would amount to Kentucky applying its laws to the U.K. and enforcing the criminal and public law of a foreign state.

Furness agreed with Tager's arguments for the most part, and issued the injunction. Furness also agreed that Full Tilt's strategy of not waiting for the final Kentucky ruling was the correct one.

"The proceedings are essentially pre-emptive in nature -- in theory the claimant might have waited to see if the Commonwealth of Kentucky would attempt enforcement proceedings and then defended them," Furness wrote in his ruling. "But this seems to me to be a case where the pre-emptive approach was justified. The continued use of the domain name is clearly important to the claimant's business and it is at present in state of uncertainty as to whether the Kentucky proceedings will be enforced."

Vin Narayanan

Articles by Vin Narayanan is the former managing editor at Casino City and has been involved in the gaming industry for over a decade Vin is currently based in Hong Kong, where he runs his own consultant group and works as head of gaming and public relations for Mega Digital Entertainment Group.

Before joining Casino City, Vin covered (not all at the same time) sports, politics and elections, wars, technology, celebrities and the Census for USATODAY.com, USA WEEKEND and CNN.