back to article Kentucky commandeers world's most popular gambling sites

The state of Kentucky has seized control of some of the world's most popular gambling domain names courtesy of a state judge who issued a secret ruling last week ordering registrars to transfer 141 internet addresses to the state's top law enforcement official. The order (PDF) by Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate …


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  1. Pierre
    Paris Hilton

    Oh my

    Wow. Wow wow wow.

    I guess it's time to file that lawsuit I prepared... the one that will transfer all the domain names in the world to me. For making available content that is clearly illegal in some parts of the planet. The Intarwubs are mine! MINE!!!111!!1!eleven.

    Do you need to be batshit crazy to become a merkin politician or lawyer, or does it appear as a consequence of the job?

  2. Seán


    Gambling's for fools but clearly not gambling is for lunatics.

  3. Luke Ratcliffe


    In your article, you attribute the quote "tantamount to a virtual home invasion" to Governor Beshear whereas the article you linked to attributes it to Secretary J. Michael Brown.

    In addition, whilst I find the legal action quite unpleasant, I do feel that if a state wants you to block its users from your domain and it is a reasonable request (such as this, where the content of your servers is illegal in that state), you should try to do so.

    I can appreciate the argument that it is comparable to the Chinese censorship however, these things should be contested through political action, not technological.

  4. Chris C


    Boy, I sure am glad that Verisign has been given irrevocable, perpetual control over .com. It's nice to have a company that'll stand up for the rights of the domain owner and not simply transfer the domain to whoever complains... Oh, oh wait, nevermind.

    And we wonder why the world wants to do away with ICANN? No more proof is needed to see that the Internet is a US-owned and US-controlled property, and we're all just renting space.

  5. Dan Goodin (Written by Reg staff)



    You're right, it was Secretary Brown who said that, not the governor. Thanks for pointing out. Error corrected.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Kentucky != Unitary World Authority (?)

    Unless I am misreading this (always a possibility!), you are saying a Kentucky judge has effectively ordered the seizure of Domains that do not reside within Kentucky just because Users within Kentucky can access the gambling sites on those Domains? So does this mean that nobody can access the sites at all, that this person and his chosen "thought police" can now restrict access to exclude Kentuckians, or just that the "real" owners can no longer profit from them?

    I take it to mean the first option, so doesn't that amount to theft of services? If somebody else has paid for the Domain name and he orders the ISP to reassign it to him or his "employees", it sure seems like it to me.

    And how does he feel about such ideas as the German government seizing any domains hosted in America since it might be possible for Geman citizens to see pictures of swastikas there? Or China seizing American domains that are critical of their regime?

    Or is this just another case of a dang fool lawyer "thinking" with his butt again?

    On another, slightly related, note, I am currently in the UK, using a computer purchased in the uK, on a UK telco but I get messages on YouTube telling me I cannot watch videos from UK users on as they are not allowed to be viewed in my current location. And it's not even pr0n - it's a UK recording artist's own Youtube channel, for fecks' sake!

  7. WeeDom

    @ Mr. Ratcliffe

    Good catch on the mis-quote.

    For the rest of your post, I call "bollocks".

    An individual state in America should not be able to reach out and take property, on the whim of a judge, outside of the state (ianal, so not 100% sure on that) and certainly not outside of the US. And as for the "you should try to block its users from your domain"... BOLLOCKS!! If an individual state wants to censor the internet access of it's citizens, then that is for the STATE to do - they can't pass that responsibility onto a company operating in a country far, far away and then steal their things if they don't comply!!!

    "These things should be contested through political action, not technological": BOLLOCKS!!! How do you suggest that works? The whois information shouldn't be under the control of any one country, and certainly should not be subject to the whims of any one legal system - who says which legal system is correct? Yes, there has to be some sort of dispute resolution system and I don't claim to have a solution for that problem - but I do know the answer is not "put America in charge of it all, then"!

  8. dervheid
    Thumb Down

    un-be-fucking-leivable arrogance.

    This is just SO WRONG.

    Yet another reason for the rest of the world to hate the US. Nice one Kentucky. That'll be the bourbon 'whiskey' (note to 'merkins; the proper, Scottish spelling is "whisky") permanently off the menu.


  9. Neil Stansbury


    Well the UK authorities have the power to seize assets if they believe they are the proceeds of crime or are to be used to perpetrate offenses, so you could argue a domain name providing "illegal services" is no different.

    But it strikes me that seizing an asset that has no base in that authority, is no different to the UK trying to seize coffee shops in Amsterdam, just because UK citizens can access their services.

    The responsibility for preventing UK citizens accessing "illegal services" in Amsterdam, isn't the responsibility of the coffee shop owners but UK Border Control, so why should an internet company be responsible for preventing their services being accessed across borders?

  10. JohnG Silver badge

    Sauce for the goose...

    So this means that courts in EU countries can apply for control of domains in the US (and elsewhere) from which spammers tout fake Viagra and the like. Similarly, they should be able to grab the domains of those US companies who hold any personal data of EU citizens.

    Would this also mean that Saudi authorites could apply for the domains of US churchs illegally (under Saudi law) promoting Christianity to Saudi citizens?

  11. Joe K
    Thumb Down

    OK, thats it

    Stop the internet! Thats it, close it all down, its had a good run but its over.

    If some rednecks can just reach in and snatch hundreds of websites away from their rightful owners then we've obviously fucked up massively somewhere.

    See you all back on BBS's and Usenet.

  12. Adam T

    Agree with WeeDom

    Ludicrous that anyone would even consider allowing such an action.

    Perhaps we should shut down all the Channel and ferries and Eurotunnel to stop french people from visiting.

  13. Frank Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    @WeeDom re. @Mr.Ratcliffe

    I wanted to say all of that but you beat me to it. You expressed it better that I would have done, so thank you.

  14. Anton Ivanov
    Paris Hilton

    We get whatever Christmas we deserve

    In the words of Greg Lake: "We get whatever Christmas we deserve"

    If they did not want to be subject to US jurisdiction they should have registered with a EU (or third world) registrar using a EU (or 3rd world) domain name.

  15. Tim Schomer

    Once again

    Another example of how the american system thinks it owns the world. I think the only reason this has happened is that the judge/senator/politician in question thought he'd make a quick buck and ended up losing heavily - hell, he probably complained and tried to get his money back which they would naturally refuse. I'd love to see his browsing history and prove this.

    It's the old proverb, he who complains loudest has something to hide.

    One question, can I seize the Kentucky state website because it can be accessed in my village, and it causes offence to me?

  16. Anonymous Coward


    ..shouldn't it be left to the state to do the censoring?? If Kentucky wish to stop its citizens from gambling away their money on online casinos (which atm is probably safer than investing it) then *they* should be the ones that take the time and expense to do so, not the webmasters. And if it falls incumbent on the ISP to do so, then blame the ISP *not* the webmaster.

    Next Pennsylvania will be taking control of all websites that view evolution in a positive light and removing them from the web!

    I hate America!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Just use or other non US controlled domains.

    Sounds simple to me.

  18. jubtastic1

    This is the sort of thing

    That will lead to the fracturing of the DNS systems, swiftly followed by segregation on the Intertubes, which perhaps is the intended effect.

  19. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

    .com madness

    The issue here is that the responsible agency for the .com top level domain, as well as the registrars for sub domains are in US legal juristiction. This allows a US judge to issue binding rulings.

    There ain't no way this could happen to a .uk or a .ru site.

    I move that we make the US adhere to the rules that the rest of the world work by, and give them a .us domain (does it exist already - must check), and make .com a worldwide domain, under the control of the UN or some such organisation.

    Oh, and by the way, make it so is actually limited to registered UK companies (.co == companies, gettit), and have a, or some other non-business oriented domain for non-corporate entities (are you listening, Nominet).

    Still, probably too late now, especially as all of the root DNS servers are under US control as well.

    Anybody fancy setting up a new independent set of breakaway domains for a new Internet? I'm sure that it could be done as long as you don't need them to be registered with ICANN. I guess that the main problem would be getting the IP addresses for your new root DNS servers. Ho hum. Maybe when IP6 becomes widespread.

    Oh, it's (ironicly) the US flight jacket style coat at the back on the right. Yes, the one with the torn pockets.

  20. David Webb


    <pedantic>Kentucky is a commonwealth, not a state</pedantic>

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    back to school for the US

    Repeat after me:

    America does not own the world and US law is not applicable to the rest of the world

    Keep doing so until it actually sinks into your thick heads

  22. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Is this really going to stand?

    Aren't the other US states a bit miffed about this. I mean, I'm no expert on the US constitution but I don't recall *any* of the states being mentioned by name and certainly not Kentucky being given precedence over the rest. Isn't it just a matter of time before the decision goes to a higher court and gets shot down in flames.

    For gambling sites not based in the US, the moral is not to choose a domain name that is. And at the risk of repeating myself, it's one more reason why domain names will eventually come into alignment with legal jurisdiction, whether or not the likes of ICANN and the IETF see that as either necessary or desirable.

  23. Robin Fairless
    Dead Vulture

    This is scary!

    I think we can all agree that .com domain names whilst percieved as an american thing are actually a truly international thing.

    I can think of a handfull of British highstreet retailers that use .com instead of Tesco's, Debenhams, Marks and Sparks blah blah blah as well as the scores of international firms who use the .com domain as their global portal.

    The fact that a US judge can now order the seizure of domain names owned by non-american companies is truly unbelievable. ICANN is now truly in need of scrapping and replacing.

    I can't help thinking that this judge has inadvertently created the beginning of the end of the web as we know it. i think lots of people will now renew efforts to put the nail into ICANN

    This is actually worse than the great firewall of china - least they only block externally owned addresses, not seize them.

  24. Bronek Kozicki Silver badge

    I guess that's another proof

    ... that the DNS system with its centralized hierarchy is failure, because of its exposure to external pressure.

  25. Ash
    Thumb Down

    VIrtual home invasion? No

    This is like someone in Kentucky phoning your business or sending you a letter to order a product you sell, but the Judge doesn't like your product and takes away your phone number and postal address. Even though neither are even within the same continent as his jurisdiction!

    So, who's up for some trade embargo's against the US until they stop trying to dominate the world? I pick China, Russia, and the Middle East to all stop exporting to America. Let's see America become World Police when it can't even get ships in to harbours to extract its' own troops from a war zone.

    Man, do I hate that place...

  26. Chris Morrison


    Will this get the WTO coming down hard on America again. The whole world could soon be able to copy anything American without fear of retribution (like Antigua can!)

    "I'm sorry RIAA you can't sue me because your copyright isn't valid in my country"

  27. The BigYin

    Hmm...who's fault?

    1) The gambling site's? Err, no. I don't think so. They cannot know every law of every minor backwater on the planet.

    2) The ISPs? Most likely, they should know the location of the user fairly accurately.

    3) The users? Possible, they know they are accessing a service illegal in their locale (or they should know)

    4) The State? Most likely. In conjunction with point 2, they should have been paying the ISPs to block/support whatever services they deem are required in their irrelevant little spit of land.

    Just some thoughts.

  28. Efros
    Paris Hilton

    US States

    Are merely protecting their own lottery market from poaching by online gambling sites. Apparently it is perfectly ok to gamble in the US as long as you hand over the forkloads of cash to your state gummint.

    Paris cos she knows when she's being shafted.


  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Thank goodness this has been brought to light!

    You won't believe this, but it has come to my attention that Delta, Continental, United, American, US Airways, and Northwest Airlines are all running direct routes from Louisville Kentucky to Las Vegas Nevada, and further, that many people GAMBLE there! This is tantamount to a virtual airport invasion, which should certainly justify anti-terrorism squads seizing control of the offices of these dangerous companies.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    And even more reason to lock America away until it decides that it is ready to leave the dark ages.

    I wonder why the world hates them so much ...

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Plan !

    Transfer the website title to the good judge but keep operating it. He can go prosecute himself, keeping all this lark safely locked away in the land of the fried chicken and not bother us folks with it.

    Peter R.

  32. Ron Eve

    What ever happened to...

    ..."Cease and Desist" or "take down"? At least at first...

    Surely the unilateral seizure with (apparently) no forewarning must be illegal? Alright, so the good burghers of Kentucky must be shielded from the perils of gambling as they're clearly unable to exercise their own discretion (at least according to the State Dept). But to seize domains OUTSIDE of the US?

    Yup, the interweb must belong to the US.

    Good night America, make sure you turn the light out when you leave....

    / as it would appear the USA has been subjugated by aliens (Xenu?)

  33. stranger on the road
    Black Helicopters

    really bad news

    a state judge can't and shouldn't have the authority to do this. Even if the websites were illegal in his/her state, it doesn't change the fact that it is legal *outside* the said state.

    If something is illegal in the USA but legal outside it, the USA should censor it's own people. Forcing its laws on other people should be an illegal act in itself. If China have done the same the the USA would have cried foul, but on the other hand the USA can do it! what gives?

    I wander how long it is going to be before someone sue the USA in the WTO.... again!

  34. RichardB


    So they have seixzed the names. The names will be returned to anyone who has a claim who attends a hearing to claim them according to the pdf.

    Of course, if they have been supplying gambling facilities to Kentuckians they must be in breach of the unlawful internet gaming act, and therefore will probably be picked up by the cops on arrival. Incidentally making sure no one ever gets to the hearing...


  35. scott

    Goodo, I'll be applying for the takedown of all Rep. websites!

    If a US Judge can steal the property of foreign companies - I want to steal the property of the US Republican party. I *demand* all Rep. party websites are handed over to me *now* !!!!

    It's mostly their members who have caused the Credit Crunch - and in doing so me losing my job in a bank a couple of months ago. I've suffered real and significant losses. I am morally *outraged*. Can I have those websites *already*??!!

    Their party members were the architects and cheer-leaders of the Iraq war - now that *is* about invading someone's home.

    On second thoughts, maybe the Iraqis should get control of the Rep websites....

    ...although I guess the Saudis and Chinese might object, since they already materially own most of America.

    *BTW, what is the latest on the EU complaint to the WTO about all this??

  36. Ed

    Please follow up...

    I totally agree with the outrage over this article and would like to suggest that this is followed up by The Reg as it has far, far reaching implications.

    No domain or company property online is safe under this ruling and it seriously places doubt upon any U.S. control over the internet.

    ....just a thought here but, its well worth checking sources and accuracy of this as still can't quite believe it !

  37. EvilGav


    A previous US court dropped a case where a US citizen wanted the LHC to be stopped from starting, it was dropped as out-with their jurisdiction.

    A US judge should not be able to transfer the ownership of property that resides, essentially, outwith the bounds of the US - which is what has been done here.

    What China does is very different, they block sites from being viewed within their borders, which is their right as a soverign nation, whether you agree with it or not (hell, we do the same in the UK, but it's mostly kiddie fiddler sites, so everyones ok with that censorship). If Kentucky don't want the ganmbling sites available, they should be prosecuting ISP's as the enabler.

    Fucking septics.

  38. Hayden Clark Silver badge

    Looks like..

    ... a mass migration away from .com for a lot of sites, to get out of US jurisdiction.

  39. Anonymous Coward

    Typical wrong thinking.

    They go after websites regardless of where they are with legal threats because of their own state's laws, depite the fact that they [the websites] have done nothing wrong or illegal where they are.

    It would be easyer and legal to make ISP's who operate and make money in those states comply with local law and block them. Otherwise your just wasting time and money and embrassing yourself in cases like those posted on TPB - (where U.S Blood-Suckers cant seem to understand that Sweden has its own laws.)

    And it just makes you look like a bully-boy if you push to hard against legal websites.

    *\. Handing mine over, as coats are banned in some far flung land!

  40. Ivana Chagalot

    Seize Kentucky assets to the same value

    WTO already ruled USA's anti gambling ban illegal, (because they permit domestic gambling).

    Cayman islands is apparently a dumping ground for a lot of USA bank assets that the banks didn't want disclosed to the US regulators. So any Cayman islands company should be able to grab those assets as compensation for what they've lost.

    I bet Kentucky has a lot of state pensions invested abroad, investments, funds etc. that could be seized as compensation.

  41. Steve Sherlock
    Black Helicopters

    Chinese Comparison?

    It's a bit harsh comparing it to China now isn't it? I mean, China only refuse access to their own people. The rednecks prefer to take it away from the world...

  42. Steve

    If the judge now owns the domain name...

    ...isn't he now liable for the content?

    And he can hardly deny knowledge of what's on there.

  43. Neil Greatorex

    Note to dervheid

    The correct spelling is Arseholes

  44. Nick Palmer

    If this is adopted as a precedent...

    ...then quite simply the Internet will stop working as a business medium. Nothing could be bought or sold or published or viewed without determining whether it offends the delicate sensibilities of fuckwits like Beshear and Brown, or their pet hanging judges like this oaf Wingate, and such a determination would be at their whim. Moreover, the same process (having to second-guess the likelihood of retarded bollock-jugglers like that having an attack of the vapours) would have to be repeated for every state in the US, and probably for other countries as well. If business cannot operate with reasonable certainty, then business cannot operate.

    I'm in full accord with AC "Kentucky != Unitary World Authority (?) " and WeeDom above; yes it is theft, and yes if Kentucky wants its citizens to not see certain material, THEY should bloody well stump up for the means to filter it.

  45. Nick Askew
    Black Helicopters

    We are doing this for your own good.

    "We're not sure what the difference is between a state like Kentucky reaching half way across the globe to shut down a gambling site and, say, a government like China's trying to silence websites that violate laws forbidding dissent policies toward Tibet. "

    Well, to me, the difference is huge. While China might not approve of my reading about the way they deal with Tibet they are not actually closing the sites or preventing me from reading the content because I am outside their territory. On the other hand this arrogant attitude is typical of America thinking they have the right to police the (virtual) world with heavy handed tactics. Just because certain states in the US feel their own people are not capable of responsibly handling their own money we must all suffer.

    People (including the reg) seem happy to berate China because of their firewall and yet somehow time after time it seems they have it right. OK having a great firewall of the USA or Europe might not be popular if the governments involved choose to ban content (such as gambling) that most of the world would view as harmless. But if this case proves anything it is that not having a firewall round the USA is no garuntee of freedom of speech.

  46. Richard Kay
    Thumb Down

    Let's get the facts straight

    Followup is needed on this story. Did the judge warrant transfer through 1. the owner (ICANN) or 2. the controller (Verisign) of the top level domain or 3. through one of the various competing retail registrars (could be any of various e.g. Tucows), or as appears from the linked court order, or 4. use the legal shotgun approach at all such entities ? If as appears it was the latter, how did each registrar or specific entity receiving it respond to the order ? For domains with retail registrars with offices within Kentucky likely to accept jurisdiction of Kentucky law then the offshore gambling companies should have used a retail registrar based outside the US and only have themselves to blame. If ICANN or Verisign acted over the heads of the retail registrars e.g. based outside the US, rather than contested jurisdiction, then owners of all domains potentially affected by this need to know.

    OK as a lead article to a longer running story but more background work is needed before we know what it means.

  47. Mike Smith


    I think the RIAA and MPAA have missed a trick here. Why haven't they done the same with websites that breach copyright law in every US state? eak, it's a dot com! Runawwaayyyy!!

    There are SO MANY websites that contrevene some law or other in the US that have .com domains it's untrue. But those websites don't make enough money worth extorting, which is what is going to happen to these websites. "Ohh, ok. Have your domain back, but give us 5% of earnings" and if they refuse, they won't get their domain back. And they will do it, too, because 5% less profit is better than no profit at all :)

    I think we need to wrestle .com control from the 'merkins until they prove they're mature enough to play fair.

  48. paulc

    Migrate to

    and then block the yanks off... oh, that would screw up their business model as the vast majority of their customers are yanks who shouldn't be gambling online in the first place as it's illegal in their country...

  49. unsung rob

    Unilateral Intervention

    So any nation or state wanting to curtail their citizens internet activities has to block the info at its borders (china, pakistan). Except the good old USA who are allowed to thieve any domains they don't like. Sound about like the rest of world affairs?

  50. Anonymous Coward

    What happened to freedom?

    People should be free to break the law if they wantr to - and then face the consequences after they are caught.

    My taking away the freedom to break the law, you are creating a situation where law-abiding citizens who would never have broken the law if they had a free choice then desire to break the law in order to assert their freedoms and civil liberties.

    Also, if it's so illegal to gamble - why not arrest and convict every illegal gambler in Kentucky? That would end illegal gambling pretty quickly. Or is it just about the tax dollar they're missing out on?


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