MGM Receives Favorable Ruling Versus Cyber Squatters

A federal court judge granted MGM Resorts International a preliminary injunction last week in a case involving two companies and four individuals that registered domain names of poker-related websites between 2002 and 2005 that featured names used by MGM casino properties, iGamingBusiness reported.

MGM filed a Motion for Preliminary Injunction in December calling the six defendants “cyber squatters” who are attempting to profit on MGM’s investments totalling billions of dollars spent in advertisements and promotions to establish “substantial fame, goodwill and consumer recognition” of its well-known casinos.

MGM named a total of seven infringing websites registered by the six defendants, which are CircusCircusPoker.com, AriaPoker.com, ExcaliburPoker.com, BellagioOnlinePoker.com, LuxorPoker.com, MGMPoker.com and MandalayBayOnlinePoker.com.

In making his ruling, Judge Philip Pro sided with MGM and ordered the website hosting firms Wild West Domains Incorporated, GoDaddy.com Incorporated and Melbourne IT Incorporated to place the seven domains on hold and for the defendants to refrain from using them by locking and depositing them with the court.

“Plaintiff will suffer irreparable injury to its valuable trademarks and associated goodwill if the defendants are not enjoined from transferring the AriaPoker.com, BellagioOnlinePoker.com, CircusCircusPoker.com, ExcaliburPoker.com, LuxorPoker.com, MandalayBayOnlinePoker.com and MGMPoker.com domain names, which contain plaintiff’s trademarks, namely Aria, Bellagio, Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay and MGM, to other domain name registrars or from transferring their registrations for the domain names to other persons or entities,” Judge Pro ruled.

MGM Resorts seems to be thinking ahead about online poker’s legalization in the U.S. by attempting to protect its casino names and is wanting to avoid any confusion in cyberspace regarding ownership of the casino-named websites. Just a few months ago, MGM entered into a partnership with another brick and mortar casino company, Boyd Gaming Corp., and Bwin.party, the operators of PartyPoker, in anticipation of entering the American internet poker market if U.S. lawmakers succeed in passing legislation to that effect.

Under the agreement by the three entities, the Gibraltar-based Bwin.party and the U.S. casinos each will hold a stake in new online poker companies designed to offer internet gaming using the PartyPoker name and additional new brand names. The deal calls for dividing ownership by allotting a 65 percent share to Bwin.party, 25% to MGM, and a ten percent stake to Boyd Gaming.

The issue of whether or not online poker is currently legal in the U.S. is in somehwat of a grey area. The U.S Department of Justice (DOJ) seized the domains of the top three poker sites in April of last year, charging PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker with fraud, money laundering and violating the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). Since that time, all three have stopped providing online poker to American players, with Full Tilt forced to cease operations completely and Absolute Poker losing 99% of its player traffic and rumored to be near shutting down as well.

There are still some poker sites and networks that allow U.S. players to log on and play poker. The Merge Network currently ranks first in player traffic among networks catering to American players. If you happen to be a U.S. citizen and are looking for a site on which to play online poker, check out the Carbon Poker review, as that is one of the top skins on the Merge Poker Network.

A recent DOJ decision clarifying the 1961 Wire Act to be applicable only to sports betting has certain individual states desiring to provide online poker services to its residents on an intrastate basis. The state of Nevada is in the forefront of those states and has already accepted applications from gaming companies desiring to enter the internet poker market. It is believed that MGM will be one of the companies that will open online poker websites.