Our objective is not to shut these sites down worldwide," Brislin said. "Our goal is to have these internet gambling sites blocked in Kentucky." Settlement negotiations were under way Friday in the legal dispute over whether states that object to online casinos can block their residents from accessing the Web sites.
Brislin confirmed that lawyers for Kentucky and online casino operators were holding talks in advance of a court hearing scheduled for Friday afternoon. He said Goldencasino.com notified Kentucky account holders by e-mail Tuesday that its Web site will "no longer accept play from residents of Kentucky."
Governor Steve Beshear, who based his election campaign last year on a promise to open casinos in Kentucky, asked a judge to cut off access to 141 gambling Web sites by giving Kentucky control of the domain names. The move affects some of the world’s most popular gambling sites. Brislin said state lawyers want the online casino operators not only to block access in Kentucky but also to pay an unspecified amount of financial damages for lost revenue.
The move has drawn sharp criticism from online gambling advocates, including the Washington-based Poker Players Alliance, which has 13,000 members in Kentucky. Executive director John Pappas said Kentucky is the only government to try to bar online gambling "aside form Iran and China and other oppressive regimes."
"This action by the governor isn’t something that’s going to be taken lightly by our membership," Pappas said. "They viewed the governor as pro-gambling, and our members helped support him in the election just last year. They view this as betrayal."
Kentucky allows gambling at horse tracks and bingo halls and operates a state-run lottery. Blocking gambling Web sites, Beshear said, will protect those operations from unwelcome online competition. Beshear contends Kentuckians are wagering millions of dollars through gambling Web sites and that the operators neither pay taxes to the state nor provide jobs.
Justice Secretary J. Michael Brown said if Franklin County Circuit Judge Thomas Wingate gives Kentucky control of the domain names, the state can block the Web sites.
Beshear, a Democrat, pushed the state legislature this year to approve a ballot referendum that, if approved, would have changed the state’s constitution to allow casinos. He said allowing casinos to open, then taxing them, would have raised some us$ 500 million in additional state revenue. Kentucky lawmakers rejected the proposal.