Media Firm Challenges DOJ Ad Policy

9 August 2004

An American media company has raised a formal challenge to the legality of the U.S. Justice Department's attempt to suppress advertising for Internet gambling services.

Casino City, Inc., a Louisiana-based company that provides a directory of both Internet and land-based casinos as well as several other informational services on its web-sites, has filed a complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Louisiana. The company seeks a declaratory judgment stating that the Department of Justice's application of aiding and abetting charges to advertising for legal overseas companies violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

If successful, Casino City's case would eventually put an end to what many consider a chilling effect that has left many advertisers in the U.S. afraid to place ads for online gambling.

Casino City operates a variety of websites providing gaming information, including www.CasinoCity.com, a gaming portal launched in 1995 and one of the most popular such sites on the web today. On its web sites one can find interviews with professional gamblers, advice, expert columns, directories, playing strategies, tips, weekly news publications, and news clips.

The company relies on the sale of I-gaming advertisements for a portion of its revenues and therefore faces a reasonable and imminent threat of prosecution from the Justice Department. It has already experienced direct consequences of the Justice Department's actions.

Michael Corfman, President and CEO of Casino City, explained. "Our parent corporation had partnership plans with A&E Television Networks to promote the Breaking Vegas documentary and associated sweepstakes. Casino City was to be featured on The History Channel website and in 30 national television spots, but they cancelled the agreement after the promotion had already begun. We were told by their marketing agents that A&E felt there was an unacceptable risk it would be viewed as aiding and abetting online gaming since it's only two clicks from our home page to an online gaming site. When you have an FCC license that must be protected to stay in business, you just can't afford to take chances with the Department of Justice. That was the first instance, a few months ago."

He continued, "More recently a major Las Vegas casino wanted to work with our parent corporation on a promotion but their lawyers nixed the arrangement because of our involvement with online gaming. The scare tactics employed by the Department of Justice have clearly had an effect."

Law firm Greenberg Traurig has assembled an impressive team to handle Casino City's case. Lead attorney Barry Richard sports an impeccable resume, having represented President George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential election litigation and also having successfully argued three cases before the U.S. Supreme Court. Named as one of the National Law Journal's Lawyers of the Year in 2001 for his "national reputation for compelling advocacy," Barry has experience in state and federal constitutional law in addition to complex commercial litigation, appellate practice, and government and election law.

Patrick O'Brien is another member of the Greenberg Traurig team. A veteran of I-gaming law for many years, O'Brien has represented numerous online sportsbook and casino operators, transaction processors, media outlets, and Internet portals. Casino City says it was "Pat's solid understanding of online gaming law and his pragmatic view of the underlying issues" which led the company to select Greenberg Traurig as the firm to handle its case. Barry and O'Brien will be assisted by Laureen Galeoto, who also has extensive experience in First Amendment litigation.

The complete action filed by Casino City and additional information on the case can be found on the web at https://online.casinocity.com/FirstAmendment/.