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US shuts down Canadian gambling site with Verisign's help

Got a .com URL? US law applies

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The Department of Homeland Security has seized a domain name registered outside of the US, by individuals who are not American citizens, and who registered with a Canadian registrar.

What is unique about this case is that the American authorities did not get the domain's registrar - a Canadian company - to pull the domain. Instead they went to Verisign, which operates the entirety of .com, and had them pull the glue records, the warrant states. Verisign hasn't returned El Reg's request for comment on its role.

The domain in question - bodog.com - has been in trouble before. Bodog is a big name in online gambling and as such an attractive target for many who are seeking to stop US citizens gambling online. It was set up and run by Canadian billionaire Calvin Ayre. He, and three others involved with the site, have been indicted and could be extradited to the US if the authorities catch them.

The indictment filed accuses the quartet of website operators of violation of Maryland law. It spends a lot of time talking about the money outside the US, and takes particular offence to the hiring of advertisers and PR droids to promote internet gambling.

"Sports betting is illegal in Maryland, and federal law prohibits bookmakers from flouting that law simply because they are located outside the country," said US attorney Rod Rosenstein in a statement.

The indictment claims that Bodog paid out $100m in winnings to US gamblers, in violation of national law. The company is also accused of spending $42m to promote the site in various US states, including Maryland. The move came after an undercover investigation by the FBI, and with the help of a whistleblower who used to work at Bodog.

Certainly, Calvin Ayre is not a sympathetic character. He knew full well the laws of the various countries and states he marketed his website in, and certainly had the technological capability to at least make the attempt to block residents of countries in which online gambling is illegal from access his website.

"I see this as abuse of the US criminal justice system for the commercial gain of large US corporations. It is clear that the online gaming industry is legal under international law," Ayre said in a blog posting.

By going to the root operator of .com and having the records pulled - bypassing the registrar entirely - the DHS has sent the world exactly one message: anything hosted in the US, registered in the US, or using a domain whose root is controlled by a US corporation is subject to American law.

Expect to see a big push from non-American internet service providers of all stripes capitalizing on this event to make "not hosted in America" a major selling point. Indeed, it already is. If your website relies on a .com, .net or other American-controlled domain, and you are not an American company, it may be time to revisit that strategy. .com has just depreciated in value. ®

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