Online Casinos, Bodog and Seized Domains.

Posted on March 9th, 2012

Big questions were posed as to the future of online casinos in the US this week, following the seizure by the American government of a popular website belonging to one of its biggest brands. The Land of The Free? Think again.

As a website connected to gambling, the BoDog name was the subject of a takedown order brought by the Department of Homeland Security in the United States. The owners (including self made millionaire and playboy Calvin Ayre) pled their earlier co-operation; the domain name bodog.com now leads to an image displaying the DHS seal and a message that it has been seized under US law. The company itself is actually, and has always been, based in Canada – which begs the question: how was it possible for the US government to enforce this seizure?
It’s all in the domain name. The .com suffix is controlled and operated by the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), a group founded under the reign of former US President Bill Clinton to monitor the expanding World Wide Web. As this company was based in the United States (and despite the ‘International’ moniker), it follows that all .coms fall under American jurisdiction.
As for online gambling in the US, it’s something of a grey area; the result of which follows its inclusion as an afterthought in President Bush’s 2006 Safe Port Act; slipped in by a proponent of the vote to ensure it passed with their blessing, the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) was a very, very vague bill which placed a blanket ban on the transfer of money to or from any online betting site within the country. The long and short of it is that it is illegal in the States for companies to move money around to facilitate betting, with a special emphasis on sports betting. If you can’t pay the winners or take the bets in the first place, you are not going to be able to run a very successful sports betting site.

Supporters of the bill argue that any gambling done online would take away from the handsome profits drawn in cities such as Atlantic City and Las Vegas; critics argue that that was precisely the reason for the subsequent ban.
Following on from Black Friday – the day that three of the biggest poker sites were taken down over indictments as serious as bank fraud (that criminals did knowingly trick their bank into fraudulently accepting money known to be obtained from poker sites) – it seems that the battle for net neutrality is far from over. The SOPA and PIPA acts may have been struck a blow earlier this year, but the war goes on.

Countries in Europe are taking a different approach to “Prohibition”, some would say a more realistic route, which is one of legislation. Online casinos are legal in the UK of course. Indeed, some of the biggest online gaming companies are British (Ladbrokes, William Hill, etc).

Denmark has recently regulated the market and Spain is soon to follow. This allows the governments in these countries to police these entertainment sites, to protect its citizens and to make some tax euros.

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