As a hearing commenced today in the forfeiture portion of a court case regarding the seizure by Kentucky officials of 141 Internet domains connected to online gambling, the Poker Players Alliance filed an amicus brief – "amicus curiae" meaning "friend of the court" – detailing multiple points as to why the court-ordered seizure spearheaded by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear should not stand.
The PPA's brief highlights several areas, including poker as a game of skill (skill-based games are not gambling under Kentucky law) and First Amendment issues regarding freedom of information. These are in addition to issues expected to be raised by the domain holders themselves regarding the nature and rights of free trade over an international medium.
The filing of the brief comes as at least one outlet reported pre-hearing talks between the sides described as "negotiations". Other reports surfacing in the last 24 hours have quoted Kentucky state officials as saying the legal firms working on the state's behalf have taken the case on a contingency basis, and will be paid only if they are able to extract some financial payment from the sites whose domains were technically seized, though in almost all cases not turned over, under the Franklin County court order.
The complete announcement of the brief as filed by the PPA follows:
WASHINGTON, DC. (September 26, 2008) –The Poker Players Alliance (PPA), the leading poker grassroots advocacy group with more than one million members nationwide, today submitted an amicus brief to the Franklin Circuit Court in Kentucky regarding the state's case ordering a seizure of domain names of 141 online gambling websites. The PPA contends that poker, including online poker, is indeed legal under Kentucky state law and is a game of skill, not chance. As such, the basis for the state's seizure of poker-only website domain names is unfounded.
"The actions by the state of Kentucky are not only extreme, but groundless in that it can be clearly proven that poker is indeed a game of skill and not chance and thereby poker Web sites should not be part of the state's action," said John Pappas, executive director of the PPA. "The amicus brief filed on behalf of the PPA today proves this."
Key points of the amicus brief include:
• Extensive research citing expert opinion that poker is indeed a game of skill;
• References to academic, gaming and artificial intelligence experts citing the fact that skill is an essential element to winning at poker, be it against a human or a computer;
• Unequivocal consensus among experts that in the long run a skilled poker player will beat an unskilled poker player;
• Kentucky state law asserts that "a contest or game in which eligibility to participate is determined by chance and the ultimate winner is determined by skill shall not be considered gambling";
• Under Kentucky law, poker is a lawful game of skill because the facts can easily sustain a finding that skill of the player predominates over chance in determining outcome;
• The current case provides no evidence to suggest that any of the poker games played on any of the 141 websites in question are based on chance as opposed to skill;
• Cases in other states as well as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) letter verify that skill is the dominant factor in the game of poker; and
• The case raises First Amendment free speech issues in restricting residents' access to poker websites that contain news, blogs and forums as well as the ability to play poker.
The amicus brief concludes that given the state's lack of evidence that poker as played on any of the websites in question is not a permitted game of skill under Kentucky law, that there is "no reasonable chance of success on the underlying claim of illegality that would support its…basis for forfeiture of the domain names."
In addition to filing the amicus brief, PPA has conducted a massive grassroots campaign to rally the over 13,000 online poker players in the state of Kentucky. PPA members have flooded the offices of Governor Steve Beshear and local elected officials with thousands of letters, emails and phone calls expressing their outrage over this case and urging them to recognize poker as a game of skill and protect their rights to play poker online.
"Poker players in Kentucky are not taking the actions of Governor Beshear and the court lightly. They are outraged – and rightly so – and will speak their mind until this unfounded assault on their freedoms is stopped," continued Pappas.