Legal Update: Massachusetts Bill to be Changed and Movement in Kentucky Poker Domain Seizure Case
The Poker Players Alliance hopes to get language that would criminalize playing online poker in Massachusetts officially removed from a casino bill during a hearing today in the state legislature.
"We received commitments that the language would come out as high as the speaker's office," PPA executive director John Pappas said. "But until the language is out of the bill, we're a little gun-shy to say we achieved victory."
It appears that the PPA membership made a big difference in getting a quick turnaround after it was learned just before Easter that the anti-poker language was in the bill. Just five hours after the PPA sent out an e-mail to its Massachusetts members asking them to call their representatives, legislators were contacting the PPA telling the grassroots organization to call off the dogs.
It remains unclear how the language got into the bill. Pappas believes it may have been an honest mistake rather than a shady move by a Massachuetts legislator. The bill, which would allow for resort-style casinos to be built at existing racetracks in the state, has been introduced in two previous years with the anti-poker language attached, but the bill never went anywhere. The PPA had gotten assurances the language wouldn't be in the most recent incarnation, which is expected to pass. It's possible the legislators absentmindedly carried over a previous version of the bill.
"It could be a cut-and-paste job, for lack of a better term, and ended up in the bill without the drafters recognizing there would be such a public outcry over its inclusion," Pappas said.
The PPA had hoped to get an amendment to the casino bill that would designate poker as a game of skill. Then came the anti-poker language, and those plans had to be pushed aside. Pappas said that, once the bad language is removed, the PPA still hopes to push for the amendment. Perhaps the hoopla caused by this apparent language snafu could work in poker's favor.
"Maybe those who didn't realize it was in there want do us a solid," Pappas said. "They feel bad that they've twice now screwed this up and put us in a bad spot with our membership."
The strangest part about this whole mess is that Massachusetts, the home state of Barney Frank, almost followed Washington as the second state to criminalize playing online poker. Frank is trying to pass legislation to license and regulate Internet gambling in Congress.
"It certainly is odd," Pappas said. "We sent a letter this week to chairman Dempsey (of the Massachusetts Economic Development Committee) that highlighted that point. Not only is Barney Frank leading the effort to license and regulate it in Washington, but by doing this it would almost preclude Massachusetts from being part of that regulated structure — and eliminate the opportunity to receive tax revenue from it — if Frank is successful in his bill."
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The Kentucky Supreme Court officially received the order from the Court of Appeals to return the domain seizure case back to the higher court in Monday's session. Interactive Media Entertainment and Gaming Association chairman Joe Brennan Jr. said he expects it will only take the court a few days to decide if it will grant the request.
The next step would be for the court to rule on the Commonwealth's request for discovery on the issue of iMEGA's standing and the motion for an extension. If both are declined, it would be up to the court to finally issue a decision on the merits of the case.
Brennan didn't find any validity in the Commonwealth's response to iMEGA's affidavits illustrating standing. The Commonwealth asserted that the affidavits from iMEGA member Yatahay Limited (owner of truepoker.com) and Brennan should have been filed with the trial court rather than the appellate court, but those were not the instructions laid out in the Kentucky Supreme Court ruling. The Commonwealth's motion noted that text taken from truepoker.com named two other companies but had no mention of Yatahay. But a simple "whois" search does list Yatahay as the domain's owner.
"It just illustrates how out of their depth they are," Brennan said of the Commonwealth attorneys, who he thinks are trying to set the seeds for a future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. "You can own a domain name and not be the owner of the business. Isn't that obvious? I used to look at the Commonwealth attorneys and see a lack of legal acumen. Now I think it's just a lack of simple legal comprehension."
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