Poker News Daily has learned that the three judge Appeals Court panel in the case involving the seizure and forfeiture of 141 internet gambling domain names will convene for the first time on November 18th, according to Interactive Gaming Council (IGC) attorneys. It comes as the IGC and Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association (iMEGA) have each filed writs to the Kentucky Court of Appeals to intervene in the matter.
The case has rapidly advanced. The last major step was a ruling on October 16th by Judge Thomas Wingate that upheld the actions taken by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to seize the domain names of some of the largest online poker, casino, sports book, and Bingo companies in the world – Bodog, Ultimate Bet, PokerStars, and Full Tilt Poker, just to name a few. A final forfeiture hearing was originally scheduled for November 17th, but has since been pushed back until December 3rd.
Meanwhile, petitions have been filed asking the Court of Appeals to step in before irreparable harm in the form of lost domain names can be done. Jeff Ifrah, counsel for the IGC and member of the Greenberg and Traurig law firm, told Poker News Daily, “The only court that is going to do anything is the Court of Appeals. Judge Wingate had already decided that he was going to sign off on Beshear’s actions. The Appellate level will be the first time that anyone is starting with a blank page. We filed on Tuesday and the Commonwealth will now come back with its response. The Court of Appeals can then decide the arguments.”
The IGC represents 61 domain names out of the 141 in question. The three judge panel may decide to hear the case and schedule a time for arguments when it meets on November 18th or instead rule that insufficient grounds currently exist for a motion to step in. The panel may also mandate that the forfeiture hearing should occur before an appeal can be filed. Ifrah stated that in addition to the 61 domain names he represents, “We’ve also tried to quarterback lawyers for other domain names in order to speak with unified voice. Not all of the domain names even have counsel, so far and away, we represent the largest contingent.” IGC’s membership is currently not open to sports books, so only online casinos and poker rooms are its clientele.
Ifrah was amazed that not all of the domain name owners were present or had representation in court. He speculated, “Either they think this will blow over or that we’re doing such a good job that they don’t need to pay for lawyers. For a significant period of time after this case began, no one really knew about it. I can’t imagine that someone doesn’t know this is going on, but it’s possible.”
A potential outcome of the case would be that the forfeiture hearing is held, resulting in the loss of each of the 141 domain names in question worldwide. However, companies could in theory register a new domain name in a similar fashion to what Bodog did when it was forced to register NewBodog.com and eventually BodogLife.com after losing the rights to its original website. Ifrah commented, “What the State did was bring an action against a domain name. That means that the content of the domain name can just appear elsewhere.” A case against the new domain name would have to be filed in order for it to be seized or forfeited.
The IGC “champions initiatives that address the multi-various challenges and opportunities facing the Internet gambling industry, in order to ensure an environment of fair and responsible gambling,” according to its website. Its membership includes Full Tilt Poker, Golden Palace, Microgaming, Victor Chandler, eCOGRA, and Boss Media. The organization is based in Vancouver, British Columbia.