Recently, the Commonwealth of Kentucky filed suit against Pocket Kings – the owners of Full Tilt Poker – and “Unknown Defendants” seeking to recoup losses by state residents in online poker games. Now, the industry has had a chance to speculate on the case’s future.
In September 2008, the Commonwealth of Kentucky seized and sought the forfeiture of 141 internet gambling domain names, including those belonging to the industry giants Full Tilt Poker and PokerStars. Last month, the Kentucky Supreme Court sided with the Commonwealth on the grounds that two industry trade organizations lacked standing. However, the owners of TruePoker.com, one of the domains at risk, stepped forward and claimed membership to the Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA). Now, the case may return to the Kentucky Supreme Court.
Representing the Commonwealth in the domain name litigation and the new lawsuit is the Justice and Public Safety Cabinet. Jennifer Brislin, a spokesperson for the Cabinet, told Poker News Daily how the two lawsuits are related: “They go hand in hand. Over the course of the original suit, we went after the domain names in rem, but we didn’t know who the owners were because there is an effort to conceal their identities. In the course of the last 18 months, our attorneys were able to confirm the identity of Pocket Kings as one of the owners of Full Tilt, so that made it possible for us to go after them.” The suit does not mention Ray Bitar, Howard Lederer, Chris Ferguson, or any person associated with the site by name.
Many in the industry have critiqued the statute that the Commonwealth is using in its new case, which centers on the State having “personal jurisdiction.” Gambling and the law expert I. Nelson Rose explained to Poker News Daily, “There are all sorts of problems with the statute. It says that a loser can sue a winner, but the operator of a poker room is not a winner. There is a 100 year-old Kentucky case that says an operator of a poker room is a winner because he has the same interest as a winner, but that shows how little people understood the game. A poker operator has no interest in who wins any more than the operator of a lottery or bingo game cares who wins.” In poker, the action is player versus player, not player versus the house.
Rose added that Commonwealth attorneys, who are allegedly working on a contingency fee basis, should be targeting online casinos instead of online poker rooms like Full Tilt. To that end, the new lawsuit names over 100 internet gambling sites in addition to Full Tilt, covering the gamut of online casinos, sports books, bingo sites, and poker rooms. The suit seeks to recoup money lost by Kentucky residents from March 25th, 2005 to September 25th, 2009, a 54-month period. No dollar amount is given in the case.
Will representatives of Pocket Kings show up? Rose explained the legal consequences of not responding in the Kentucky case: “If they don’t, they’ll get a default judgment against them and then they’ll have a hearing that they also won’t show up for. If any of their assets are in the U.S., those can be seized as a result.” Rose forecasted that representatives of Pocket Kings would ultimately respond to the newest Kentucky legal filing. According to the documentation from Commonwealth attorneys, 13,000 Kentucky residents have played online poker.
Brislin added that additional defendants may be added to the case as more information is unearthed: “The attorneys think there may be other owners that we’re able to identify. We can just add them as defendants.” In the background of the legal squabble is the annual Kentucky Derby, which takes place on May 1st in Louisville. Sites like TwinSpires.com, which is owned by the same parent company as Churchill Downs, are already accepting wagers on the race. TwinSpires.com proudly advertises a $100 sign-up bonus on the Kentucky Derby’s official website.
The case was filed in the Franklin Circuit Court Division II on March 25th and is numbered 10-CI-505. Stay tuned to Poker News Daily for the latest from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.