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Minnesota Could Ban Online Casino Access

Online players in Minnesota may want to think again before logging on and playing after authorities in the northern American state announced that they have served written notices to eleven telephone and Internet service providers instructing them to prohibit access to nearly 200 sites.

The case has similarities with the ultimately unsuccessful legal action undertaken by officials in Kentucky last year and wants to stop Minnesota-based players from gaining access to online casinos and poker rooms.

Citing a 1961 law, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Alcohol And Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) has asked AT&T Internet Services, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, Direct TV, Dish Network, Embarq, Sprint/Nextel, Frontier Communications, QWest, Verizon Wireless and Wildblue Communications to prohibit players in the state from gaining access.

"We are putting site operators and Minnesota online gamblers on notice and in advance," John Willems, Director for AGED, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune newspaper.

"Disruption of these sites' cashflow will negatively impact their business models. State residents with online escrow accounts should be aware that access to their accounts may be jeopardised and their funds in peril."

AGED sited US Code Title 18, Section 1084 (D) in its notification and stated that it expects responses from the companies within two to three weeks. After this, it revealed that it would refer issues of non-compliance to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

Willems announced that the programme would expand to address thousands of sites depending on compliance. He stated that the technology required to restrict geographic access to particular sites was a relatively straightforward procedure on the part of service providers.

"In Minnesota and for Minnesotans, the primary issues are legality, state self-governance and accountability," said Willems.

"In broader context, the long-running debate on online gambling continues to raise significant issues including absence of policy and regulation, individual rights, societal impact, international fair-trade practices and funding for criminal and terrorist organisations."