Kentucky Franklin Circuit Court Judge Thomas Wingate ordered Amaya Gaming, a Canadian online gaming operator, to pay $870 million to the state for providing illegal gaming service to Kentucky residents. Last month, the Judge set the compensation at $290 million, but yesterday he accepted the state’s request for triple damages.
This whole process began back in 2010 when Kentucky filed a suit against PokerStars, now an Amaya subsidiary, claiming the site was operating illegally in the period from 16th of October, 2006, to 15th of April, 2011. The first date is actually the date when the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act was signed, whereas the latter one is the date when PokerStars was forced out the American market by federal indictments.
The state filed the suit based on a statue dating back to the 19th century that states third parties can collect residents’ illegal gambling losses in case players didn’t act within six months. That same statute is giving third parties the right to ask for triple damages on the losses.
Judge Wingate pointed out that the ruling comes with a 12% yearly interest, around $104 million, until the debt is covered. Therefore, he suggested that Amaya should start paying instead of trying to avoid the fine. The Judge described his decision as “harsh medicine,” but highlighted that such were the consequences for violating Kentucky laws.
Amaya has already announced its intention to appeal the ruling and, eventually, ask for PokerStar’s former owners Mark and Isai Scheinberg to cover the debt because they were operating the site at the time. Additionally, Marlon Goldstein, company’s executive vice president, called the ruling absurd considering the fact that PokerStars’ gross revenues during the five years in question was around $18 million.
In the meantime, Poker Players Alliance filed a motion that’s asking any possible payment to go to players that lost money on the site instead to the state; this ruling is in the hands of Judge Wingate as well.