Poker domain seizures involved complex criminal activity specifically targeted at the United States.
Yesterday the online gambling world was rocked by the seizure of five poker domain names used by three large online poker companies.
The domain names were seized by the FBI from PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and Absolute Poker. According to Compete.com, FullTiltPoker.com gets around 1 million unique visitors a month.
Some people are drawing references to the Kentucky gambling domain seizures and recent seizures from ICE Homeland Security Investigations.
I think drawing parallels here is a mistake. This case is completely different.
At issue isn’t that these companies operated online businesses outside the U.S. that are illegal in the U.S. It’s more than that. The government alleges that the companies:
1. Tricked banks into processing gambling payment transactions by making them think they were e-commerce payments for other goods
2. Invested in struggling banks to get them to illegally process gambling payments
Indeed, if you run an online gambling site and didn’t do any of the above, the U.S. government isn’t targeting you nor your domain names. Even if they are on .com, which is managed by the U.S.-based registry VeriSign.
Should the domain names that were used to run a criminal enterprise specifically targeting the U.S. have been seized? Well, if you get caught bringing drugs into the U.S. on a boat, both your drugs and the boat used to commit the crime will be seized.
Now let’s switch gears to another question: if you’re running a questionable site should you go with a country code domain name with a different jurisdiction?
Well, is what you’re doing legal in the country that the ccTLD belongs to?
For example, you don’t want to run a porn or gambling site on a UAE domain.
Also ask yourself if the country is stable and if it has a history of not changing its domain name policies on a whim.
It’s also worth noting that a number of ccTLDs are managed by registries based in the United States. It might be harder to avoid jurisdiction than you think.