The Minnesota Department of Public Safety (DPS) Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division (AGED) today announced that it has instructed 11 national and regional telephone and Internet service providers (ISPs) to prohibit access by Minnesota-based computers to nearly 200 online gambling Web sites.

This is a new approach to state attempts to regulate Internet access to gambling sites. Last year, Kentucky seized 141 Internet gambling domain names in an attempt to stop access to online gambling. The Kentucky Court of Appeals later stayed the forfeiture.

Minnesota delivered notices to AT&T Internet Services, Charter Communications, Comcast Cable, Direct TV, Dish Network, Embarq, Sprint/Nextel, Frontier Communications, Qwest, Verizon Wireless, and Wildblue Communications, citing U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 1084, (d) which pertains to common carriers. The law reads, in part:

"When any common carrier, subject to the jurisdiction of the Federal Communications Commission, is notified in writing by a federal, state, or local law enforcement agency, acting within its jurisdiction, that any facility furnished by it is being used or will be used for the purpose of transmitting or receiving gambling information in interstate or foreign commerce in violation of federal, state or local law, it shall discontinue or refuse, the leasing, furnishing, or maintaining of such facility, after reasonable notice to the subscriber ... "

"We are putting site operators and Minnesota online gamblers on notice and in advance," says John Willems, director of AGED. "Disruption of these sites' cash flow will negatively impact their business models. State residents with online escrow accounts should be aware that access to their accounts may be jeopardized and their funds in peril." Willems anticipates the program expanding to address thousands of sites, depending on compliance. He noted that the required technology to restrict geographic access to particular sites is a relatively straightforward procedure on the part of service providers.

Wayne Hanson  |  Senior Executive Editor, Center For Digital Government