Minnesota Rep. to Challenge I.S.P. Blocking Order

5 May 2009
The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division of the Minnesota Department of Public Safety is still unsure of how it will respond to the bill introduced Monday by Republican Representative Pat Garofalo that would thwart its efforts to ban Internet gambling in the state.

Mr. Garofalo told IGamingNews Tuesday that he is working to attach the language, which would require legislative approval prior to any investigation of Internet gambling, to another bill in the hopes of getting it passed before session ends in two weeks.

Mr. Garofalo said he would also work with non-elected officials to get the public safety department’s policy reversed.

“I don’t think it’s an appropriate role for the government to be playing,” he said.

Like the Poker Players Alliance, a player advocacy group that lobbies Congress, Mr. Garofalo has expressed disapproval of the public safety department’s declared intention to filter residents’ access to Web sites and likened the effort to those made by Communist China.

Although appreciative of Mr. Garofalo’s endeavors, gaming interests still plan to retain council to fight the public safety department’s effort.

Joe Brennan, chairman of the Interactive Media and Entertainment Gaming Association, a trade group that lobbies congress, said his association sent a letter today to each of the Internet service providers that were served notice by the public safety department urging them not to comply (a copy of the letter can be viewed here).

Mr. Brennan added that Imega is contemplating taking the matter to federal court, and doubted whether Mr. Garofalo’s bill would get anywhere.

“We appreciate the support, but I doubt the DPS (public safety department) will respond to the language as it is,” Mr. Brennan told IGamingNews. “The Minnesota Legislature may lack jurisdiction in this matter, as well. The DPS is meant to be proactive, to launch investigations. Requiring prior legislative approval seems like a violation of separation of powers.”

Jeff Ifrah, an attorney with Greenberg Traurig and counsel to the Interactive Gaming Council, an industry trade body, said the IGC had no reason to assume the public safety department would drop the issue, and would continue exercising every resource it had to resist the agency’s efforts to ban Internet gambling.

“I applaud Representative Garofalo for taking this on himself and recognizing the illegality and the implications of what the DPS is trying to do,” Mr. Ifrah told IGamingNews.

The IGC has hired Michael Ahern of Dorsey & Whitney L.L.P. as its local council.

John Willems, the director of the gaming enforcement division, declined to comment on the issue further except to say he was “obviously disappointed” with the bill’s introduction, but that he would comply with the will of the Legislature.

Caroline Gallay is a staff writer at IGamingNews. She lives in Columbia, Mo.