Las Vegas lawyer argues against Minnesota jurisdiction of Web site

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Las Vegas-based World Wide Web site doesn’t fall under the jurisdiction of Minnesota courts, a lawyer for Granite Gate Resorts Inc. argued to the state Supreme Court.
“Wagernet is an idea. At this point that’s all it is,” said Eckley Keach, a lawyer for Granite Gate Resorts Inc. The Wagernet site is up, but has taken no bets.
Lawyers for Attorney General Hubert Humphrey III argued Wednesday that they have the power to prosecute the site’s originator in Minnesota courts.
Humphrey is pushing to block Granite Gate president Kerry Rogers’ gambling operation from soliciting business from Minnesotans on the Internet. Humphrey accused Rogers of false advertising, deceptive trade practices and consumer fraud.
Assistant Attorney General Carolyn Ham argued that the site is soliciting business for gambling, which would be illegal for Minnesotans to do on the Internet.
“Where an Internet advertiser, just like any other medium, uses false and deceptive advertising in Minnesota, Minnesota has jurisdiction,” Ham said.
The lower courts have given Minnesota jurisdiction.
Keach argued that if Minnesota were given jurisdiction here, it could have international implications. For example, if Humphrey put up a pro-democracy site, he could be subject to extradition and prosecution in China where advocating democracy is illegal, Keach said.
The Supreme Court justices hearing the case gave no indication of how they would rule, but they asked wide-ranging questions.
“Is there any way you can control where your stuff goes when you put it on the Internet?” Justice Esther Tomljanovich asked.
Keach said no, but Granite Gate could put a flag on the site saying Minnesotans were barred from participating in Internet gambling.
Justice Sandra Gardebring asked whether she could type in her name and ask for information on the site. Keach said yes.
“It’s not exactly just a passive advertisement,” she said. “It’s somewhere down the line, moving closer to interactivity.”
Keach agreed, but said the site was transmitting nothing.
Gardebring said, “Of course you’re transmitting information about your future business.”
Ham also said the site “was designed to create interest and develop a Web site for their upcoming business.”
The site advertised “a legal way to bet from anywhere in the world,” and that’s false, Ham said.
Justice Alan Page asked Ham, “So if you put an ad in the New York Times national edition, then you’re subjecting yourself to national jurisdiction?”
Ham said yes.
The court’s action will be watched by lawyers and the computer industry because it could have broad implications for interstate communication.
The Las Vegas Web site in question is: www.wagernet.com