May 8, 2009 (CAP Newswire) — The state of Minnesota's recently announced attempt to block its residents’ access to about 200 online gambling websites continues to be a source of criticism throughout the media. This past week saw story after story dedicated to condemning the state’s actions, with an almost complete absense of approving opinions.
As is to be expected, gambling advocacy groups like PPA and iMEGA were strongest in criticizing the censorship plans. However, iMEGA went beyond words to file an actual lawsuit against the state on Wednesday. In its lawsuit, the group contends that, whether or not the state declares Internet gambling to be illegal, it’s unconstitutional to block people from actually accessing the sites, since visiting doesn’t equal participation.
Minnesota’s own State Representative Pat Garofalo has also been outspoken in his opposition to the state’s censorship attempt. This week, Garofalo introduced legislation into the congress to stop the state from proceeding with the censorship action.
“Demanding that a private-sector internet service provide block access to websites is not a proper function of our state government,” said Garofalo. “The Department of Public Safety has to have better things to do with their time than to go after a college kid in his dorm room or some guy sitting in his basement spending a couple of hours playing online poker. … This is the kind of thing they do in communist China, not the United States of America.”
Lastly, mndaily.com, a news source from the University of Minnesota, breaks down the case and concludes that it is legally unsound. “Under this conception, AGED [Minnesota’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division]’s move smacks of infraction by blocking Minnesota internet customers from accessing certain websites … which at this point includes the 200 online poker sites,” the website states. “Of the nearly 200 sites, only 44 even accept U.S. players. Until a Minnesota statue makes playing online poker an explicit crime, these companies are having their web traffic disabled for what can only be deemed no legal reason. The Minnesota AGED simply has no leg to stand on.
“In 2004, a Pennsylvania court struck down a statute which blocked access to websites accused of child pornography, arguing the law violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments, amounted to unconstitutional prior restraint and inhibited access to other wholly legal websites because unrelated websites shared IP addresses,” continued the article. “This action taken under the executive branch of Minnesota’s government, not backed by its own legislation, threatens the same shortcomings. An interactive gaming trade group, iMEGA has just filed suit against AGED and its actions citing USC 1983 which allows questionable ‘enforcement’ methods, particularly those which impact constitutional rights, to be subjected to lawsuit. The Minnesota AGED has opened fire on net neutrality through its blatant misreading of federal statute. The AGED should retract these letters and get back to enforcing the law.”