Online gambling verboten in Minnesota

gamblingYesterday the Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) announced that it has served written notice to 11 national and regional telephone and Internet service providers  instructing them to prohibit access of all Minnesota-based computers to nearly 200 online gambling websites.

The provider list includes to AT&T Internet Services, San Antonio; Charter Communications, St. Louis; Comcast Cable, Moorestown, N.J.; Direct TV, Los Angeles; Dish Network, Englewood., Colo.; Embarq and Sprint/Nextel, both of Overland Park, Kan.; Frontier Communications, Stamford, Conn.; Qwest, Denver; Verizon Wireless, Bedminster, N.J.; and Wildblue Communications, Greenwood Village, Colo.

So if you have any accounts with any of the 200 sites – you might want to cash out soon.

What’s kind of funny is that they’re using a federal law that enables restrictions on phone calls used for wagering. (They are also calling for the 200 companies’ phone numbers to be blocked.) So some folks think this might not work. John Morris, general counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology in Washington notes that the courts will probably not uphold this rule because it originally targeted phone companies with relationship to the bet takers. (Most of the online gambling sites are offshore and have no relationships with US ISPs.)

John Palfrey, co-director of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, says it won’t work because filtering sites doesn’t work. (I have to ask if filtering sites doesn’t work – well then what’s all the hubbub on Net Neutrality. This might be an excuse to get filtering to work.)

Folks in the gambling industry press are wondering why this is happening now. Apparently legislation is in the works to overturn the UIGEA (Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act) and make online gambling legal.

I haven’t seen much from the Net Neutrality folks on this yet – but the gambling folks seem determined to draw in potential partners – such as Save the Internet. That being said, Kentucky tried a different approach to stopping online gambling from their citizens by trying to get 141 domain names moved to the State’s control as seized gambling property in an effort to get those sites to block Kentucky users. I haven’t seen much on Net Neutrality there either but again it’s a different situation.

I’ve seen where Net Neutrality folks recognize the potential hardship for gambling (and other) industries if the Internet goes non-Neutral. Then providers can charge fees to bring traffic to those sites, but I think policy-wise the Minnesota case is a little different. Technology-wise I suspect that whatever the providers learn here will be helpful to them in a non-Neutral world.

If the comments posted on an article on the Star Tribune (New tactic in war on online gambling) are any indication, this should be a good show.