Minnesota ban challenged in court

The Interactive Media and Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA) has followed up on its condemnation of the attempt by Minnesota enforcement officials to ban 200 online gambling websites at ISP level by filing suit in the US District Court of Minneapolis (see documentation here http://www.imega.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/05/imega-v-willems-mn-dps-us-district-court-of-minnesota.doc)

And it has declared its intention to recoup legal fees necessarily expended in challenging the action of non-elected state officials, invoking USC 1983 and firing a warning shot across the bows of other state officials who may be considering questionable 'enforcement' techniques that impact fundamental constitutional rights.

The iMEGA action requests that the court halt the Minnesota Department of Public Safety's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement division from enforcing an order its director John Willems issued to 11 Internet service providers (ISPs), to block state residents' access to 200 Web sites (see previous InfoPowa reports).

"We filed this to first, get MN DPS to rescind their order to the ISPs, and second, to put any other state on notice that a similar action will be contested in court," said Joe Brennan Jnr., iMEGA's chairman.

The iMEGA suit names John Willems as director of AGED, and claims that Minnesota lacks the authority to compel ISPs to block residents access sites, and that the actions of the state and its servants constitute a violation of free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment of the US Constitution.

"It's our hope that Minnesota will recognize their error and drop their blocking order," said Brennan. "Censoring Internet access for Minnesota residents would establish a troubling precedent of government intrusion into the online world, and we just can't allow that to happen."

iMEGA earlier communicated with the ISPs involved, advising them of their legal position and the fact that they were not compelled by law to comply with the AGED's poorly researched demands to block specific websites. The advisory claimed that Minnesota had neither the authority nor the jurisdiction to order the ISPs to block Minnesota residents access to sites that were not located within the state.

According to iMEGA, the response from the ISPs has so far suggested that they are disinclined to accede to the AGED demand.

"In response to our letters (sent out) yesterday, they are not inclined to comply with the Minnesota order," commented Brennan.

In an interesting footnote to the iMEGA action, an independent study of the website blacklist which Willems wants ISPs to block was carried out by the Casino City gambling information website. Only 44 of the 200 Web sites that Minnesota's Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division seeks to censor actually accept players from the state, it found. That means just 22 percent of the sites AGED wants to block affect Minnesota residents.

The study vindicated comments made earlier by the iMEGA chairman that questioned how much thought had been devoted by AGED staff into making the 'random' selection.

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