Online casino operator Pocket Kings Limited has foiled the American state of Kentucky’s attempt to seize 141 virtual gambling domain names by winning an action in the UK’s High Court.
Pocket Kings owns popular site FullTiltPoker.com and initiated court proceedings in October of last year after registrar SafeNames Limited was ordered by the American state to turn over the domain.
The highest court in the UK ruled late last month that it would not recognise or enforce current or future orders to turn over the domains because the Kentucky action was not enforceable in English law due to its penal and governmental nature.
“English courts have no jurisdiction to entertain an action (I) for the enforcement either directly or indirectly of a penal, revenue or other public law of a foreign state or (2) founded upon an act of state,” read the judgement of Queen’s Counsel Michael Furness.
”So far as I am aware, there is no authority on the question whether the forfeiture of assets used in the commission of a crime under local law is to be regarded as penal for the purpose of this rule. Regardless of the categorisation of this type of forfeiture as a civil remedy under US law, it seems to me to be a provision distinctly penal in nature, requiring as it does the confiscation without compensation of an asset, on the ground that the owner, or at least the user of it, has been guilty of a criminal offence.
”I, therefore, conclude that the Kentucky proceedings are not enforceable in English law as being penal or governmental in nature. It is not, therefore, necessary for me to consider whether the Kentucky proceedings breached the principles of natural justice.'
As a result of this ruling, domains registered with SafeNames will not be turned over to Kentucky but those with US-based registrars may still be subject to seizure. This is dependent on the Kentucky Supreme Court, which is currently in the process of considering the matter with a ruling expected before the beginning of March.