Kentucky Pursues First Payments from PokerStars in $1.3B Online Poker Lawsuit

After the Kentucky Supreme Court refused to rehear a case in which the state won a $1.3 billion judgment against PokerStars, Kentucky is pursuing the first $100 million it is owed.

Poker Players Alliance Kentucky PokerStars judgment

The Kentucky Supreme Court brought down the gavel — and proverbial hammer — on PokerStars in December to the tune of $290 million in damages for what it calls illegal gambling. It refused to rehear the case last week. (Image: pa-titlecompany.com)

Lawyers are filing a motion in Franklin Circuit Court to collect $100 million in bonds that PokerStars posted to begin its appeal five years ago, a spokesperson for Gov. Andy Beshear told the Lexington Herald Leader. The court will likely first hear the case on April 19.  

Beshear’s office described PokerStars as “an illegal internet gambling criminal syndicate,” on Thursday.

Flutter Entertainment, the now-parent company of PokerStars, did not own the poker site during the years cited in the lawsuit.

Flutter referred CardsChat to its press release on the matter, in which it said that it “continues to strongly dispute the basis of this judgment.

“Together with its legal advisors, Flutter will continue to consider its position in relation to the judgment, including potentially appealing the ruling of the case to the US Supreme Court along with other legal avenues which it may pursue thereafter.”

Case bounces through legal system for years

The state Supreme Court decided in the state’s favor in December, ruling that the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet could collect damages on behalf of some 34,000 state residents who lost more than $290 million on PokerStars from 2006 to 2011. Those years marked the time between Congress’ passage of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act and the Justice Department’s seizure of the internet domains of PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker, and other online poker websites on April 15, 2011, a day known as “Black Friday” among poker aficionados.

The case has pogoed through the Kentucky legal system for years. A Franklin County circuit judge initially sided with the state and its request for $290 million in 2015 – and then tripled the damages for what he called illegal behavior. The Court of Appeals reversed that ruling before the Supreme Court reinstated the initial ruling in favor of the state, minus the sky-high $870 million in damages.

Kentucky Supreme Court cites ‘tragic damage’ from online poker

Kentucky’s highest court said the state, which offers a legalized lottery, bingo, and pari-mutuel racing, suffered “tragic damage to its citizens” from online poker.

“Mental and physical health care systems that care for the citizens harmed by the illegal gambling are supported in part by the state,” the Kentucky Supreme Court said in its initial ruling. “Money sent to offshore gambling accounts is lost and the state deprived of the taxes to which it is entitled. The cost to prosecute and incarcerate individuals who resort to crime to support their gambling is a huge cost on Kentucky’s strained and overextended penal system.”

Written by
Johnny Kampis
Johnny Kampis -- the author of "The Essential Guide to Vegas during the World Series of Poker" and "Vegas or Bust: A Family Man Takes on the Poker Pros" -- has been making the summer trek to Las Vegas from Alabama since 2004. When not playing poker, he's a professional journalist who's written for American Spectator, Fox News, HuffPost, Watchdog.org, and many others. He currently writes for the Taxpayers Protection Alliance and serves on the FCC's media advisory panel.

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