Minnesota Does A Kentucky with Online GamblingBy: Ryan Alders, Thursday April 30th 2009
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First it was the state of Kentucky that tried to block access to the web sites of online gambling operators to the residents of the state. That case is mired in the courts and in the end may well move to the country’s Supreme Court. Now the state of Minnesota has engaged on an almost identical venture.
The Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) working under the Minnesota Department of Public Safety has served written notice to 11 national and regional telephone and Internet service providers (ISPs) instructing them to block access from all computers in the state to nearly 200 online gambling websites. AGED has also instructed that the telephone numbers of the listed gambling operators be blocked. Whereas Kentucky used state laws as the basis for their action, Minnesota has issued these instructions citing the Wire Act of 1961. Under this act the states have the authority to prevent illegal gambling.
The notified ISPs have been given two to three weeks to report compliance failing which they will be referred to the Federal Communications Commission. John Willems, director of AGED, has said that the given list of gambling sites is just an initial list and the blocking will eventually cover thousands of sites. He also said that only those sites that actually conducted gambling operations have been targeted. Sites that merely advertise gambling services will not be affected. He added that the technology for restricting geographic access to particular sites is simple and available so there should be no issues on that count. Willems said that the gambling operators stand to lose business and have the financial projections disrupted. Also the states online gamblers may get stuck with funds in online gambling accounts that they are unable to access. Therefore the state has notified all concerned through a press release.
Willems explained in detail the reasons for this action and the reason for taking it now. He said that today there was no distinction between telephone companies and Internet Service Providers and therefore the state believed that the Wire Act could be applied. Willems said. "In broader context, the long-running debate on online gambling continues to raise significant issues, including absence of policy and regulation, individual rights, societal impact, international fair-trade practices, and funding for criminal and terrorist organizations."
Gaming law attorney Clarke Walton opines that the action taken by the state of Minnesota is not legal because the Wire Act "applies only to sports betting and not other casino games like slot machines and certainly not poker." The Poker Players Alliance (PPA) was more vehement in its response. Calling this act "a heavy-handed tactic by the government" Matt Werden, the Minnesota state director of the PPA, claimed that it was in violation of both federal law and Minnesota law.
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