Feds Continue Crackdown On Poker... By Seizing The Wrong Bodog Domain

from the keystone-kops dept

The feds domain name seizure powers seem simple enough (if of extremely questionable legality, seeing as domains involve speech which requires a higher standard to seize), so it really amazes me how badly they seem to regularly screw up in using them. The latest is the seizure of Bodog.com as well as the indictment of Bodog boss Calvin Ayre. While there's been lots of attention paid to the seizures of sites having to do with copyright and trademark infringement, the same feds (ICE and the DOJ) have also been using the same powers gleefully to stop you from playing poker online. You may recall that they seized PokerStars, Full Tilt Poker and Absolute Poker last April, followed up by 10 more domain seizures in May (which was especially bizarre, since the key thing that's illegal is processing payments, but in that case, the federal government set up its own fake payment processor for those sites...).

Bodog, however, has been considered the "big dog" of online poker for quite some time, raising some questions as to why it wasn't included in last years' busts. Of course, in typical fashion, the feds seem to have targeted the wrong domain. Bodog gambling sites moved off of Bodog.com ages ago -- first due to a patent dispute, and later to avoid having the sites on US controlled domains. For quite some time the company has mainly relied on bodog.eu, and more recently has been offering a different domain called Bovada.lv for US-based players.

As for Bodog.com? It had become the face of the "Bodog Brand" and was used for licensing the Bodog name, but wasn't itself a gambling site in ages. The affidavit for seizure (pdf and embedded below) claims that federal agents set up accounts and gambled on Bodog.com, but I really wonder if they didn't miss the fact that they were redirected to another site. Checking the internet archive, it certainly looks like Bodog.com was pretty much out of commission long before the feds claimed to have set up and used accounts there. Either way, the seizure seems unlikely to do much to stop gambling on Bodog sites, considering that the actual gambling was happening on sites, other than Bodog.com, which likely are still perfectly operational.

As for the actual indictment (pdf and embedded below) against the individuals, it's more or less what you'd expect. They focus a lot how Bodog moved money around, but much of that was only necessary because of the (relatively recent) decision by some politicians in the US to sneak an anti-online gambling bill into a bill about protecting our ports and harbors. Ever since then there's been a growing effort in Congress to actually make online gambling legal again -- in part because the big casinos who mostly supported the original ban have now changed their minds and want in on the action. In other words, while it is likely that Ayers and his team did violate the law, there are a lot of questions about the law itself, and there's a half decent chance that what he was doing will be perfectly legal before too long.

Kinda makes you wonder why the feds are spending their time and taxpayer-funded resources on such a thing, doesn't it?

As for Ayers, he sounds pretty defiant, suggesting that this is really just the feds acting in the best interests of large casinos who don't like the competition:
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 and in the case of these documents is it also clear that the rule of law was not allowed to slow down a rush to try to win the war of public opinion.

These documents were filed with Forbes magazine before they were filed anywhere else and were drafted with the consumption of the media as a primary objective. We will all look at this and discuss the future with our advisors, but it will not stop my many business interests globally that are unrelated to anything in the US....
The whole thing seems like a big waste of time by some federal officials who like big headlines, but don't seem particularly focused on stopping crimes that actually cause real harm.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 8:40am

    However, if Bodog.com had a "gamble at our casino" link on it's main page, open to US players, then it is still in trouble.

     

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    •  
      icon
      Hephaestus (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:00am

      Re:

      Linking to companies that compete with US corporations is illegal. I finally get this whole linking issue pushed forward by the content industry.

       

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      •  
        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:02am

        Re: Re:

        No, trying to hide your intent to break US law by moving part of your business offshore doesn't insulate you from liablity.

        Ask the other poker places, that no longer allow US players to access their paying sites. It's the way that it is done. If they could go to bodog.com and click a "play poker for money" style link that goes to a site owned by the same people, then it's just a dodge.

         

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          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:25am

          Re: Re: Re:

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 11:09am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Search engine. How fucking stupid are you? Is poker Microsoft's main business?

            Anyone marking your post insightful is truly stupid.

             

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        •  
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          John Fenderson (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          It is not "hiding intent" to move your operations from somewhere where they are illegal to somewhere where they are legal. If Bodog exists in a place they're legally allowed to, then they are not "hiding intent", they are operating legally.

          Ask the other poker places, that no longer allow US players to access their paying sites. It's the way that it is done.


          So what? Just because other poker places cave in doesn't mean that's the right & proper thing to do. Why should they block US players unless there is a law where they are operating requiring them to do so?

          To argue that they should is to argue that US law should be imposed globally.

          I am truly amazed at the time, effort, and money that we through at prosecuting these sites when it could be going to something that actually matters. Even worse, we are engaging in abusive practices to do so. It's worse than a waste.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:36pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            "So what? Just because other poker places cave in doesn't mean that's the right & proper thing to do. Why should they block US players unless there is a law where they are operating requiring them to do so?"

            Because when they deal with a US player, they are (remarkably) operating in part in the US, offering services in the US, and are as a result SUBJECT TO US LAW.

            I am truly amazed that you can walk and chew gum at the same time.

             

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              Someantimalwareguy (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:50pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              LOL - they are not serving an American customer in the US, they are servicing an American citizen that has visited their site which is hosted in another country. So are you saying that should an American go overseas to say, Amsterdam and partake of a little cannabis, that the US should then be able to go there, close down the coffee shop, and seize the property?

               

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              John Fenderson (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 2:47pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Because when they deal with a US player, they are (remarkably) operating in part in the US, offering services in the US, and are as a result SUBJECT TO US LAW.


              No, they are not. They are not operating in any part in the US, and they are not subject to US law. Not according to US law, anyway.

              Offering services to US citizens? Sure! But that is not in violation of the law where they are, and since they aren't in the US themselves, US law does not apply to them.

               

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                Willton, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 4:02pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Offering services to US citizens? Sure! But that is not in violation of the law where they are, and since they aren't in the US themselves, US law does not apply to them.


                Wrong: U.S. law certainly does apply to them. Why? Because they are transacting with US citizens while the US citizens are residing in the US. Just like any online retailer based in a different country, if the online retailer is advertising to customers in the US and selling products to persons located in the US, it is enjoying the benefits and protections of US law (i.e., transacting in denominations of U.S. currency, which are being transferred to the retailer through channels located in and regulated by the United States), and is therefore subject to US jurisdiction.

                 

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                  John Fenderson (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 4:37pm

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  This is simply factually incorrect. US law does not apply to people who are not in US-controlled territories. It doesn't matter who they're doing business with or advertising to or anything.

                  That's why SOPA & PIPA had to go through such legal gymnastics to try and make US law affect people outside the US. It has no direct authority over them regardless of what they do. Instead, the bills were trying to reach them by imposing rules on the entities they deal with who are, in fact, in the US: payment service providers, ISPs, etc.

                   

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                  •  
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                    raphidae, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 6:16am

                    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                    Tell that to Kim Dotcom and MegaUpload in general.

                    Apparently there are enough legal options to arrest a German/Finnish citizen in New Zealand operating a business in Hong Kong without SOPA/PIPA.

                     

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                      John Fenderson (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 8:47am

                      Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                      MegaUpload was taken down because it relied on services in the US, and it was those services that were attacked. In other words, it was US law being applied inside the US. Kim Dotcom was arrested by the New Zealand police while in New Zealand under the authority of New Zealand law, not by the US.

                       

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                •  
                  identicon
                  LimLam, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 5:54am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Wrong again: http://firstamendment.com/site-articles/UIEGA/

                  Whats not mentioned here is the fact the US lost its case to the WTO a few years back and did not comply with the ruling.

                   

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                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, May 19th, 2012 @ 4:16am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  It's kind of hard to enforce extraterritorial jurisdiction without cooperation with both governments. The very concept of 'reach out and prosecute somebody' for offenses that aren't a crime in both states (read: countries) was considered pretty ridiculous until the Internet went and made threatening local government's power trivial. Now they're working to do stuff like libel tourism but with with worldwide prosecution instead of just lawsuits.

                  Traditionally, you had a few choices. Either send an army to enforce your court's decisions, or hope the country would 'hand `em over'. Domain names are kind of wonky though, anyways. They are essentially just phone numbers or addresses but for the Internet. It only makes sense that you'd go after the phone companies or the post office with interception demands, so now they're applying that logic to domain registrations. Many countries even go to the public's ISP's and demand DNS/IP blocking (which is stupid and easy for customers to get but... they have you by the you-know-whats as an ISP).

                   

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:24am

          Re: Re: Re:

          is this different than US cruise ships advertising gambling on their boats?

          oh, right. INTERNET!

          got it

           

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          •  
            identicon
            Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:29am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            also, slut machines and card games aren't legal in my state, yet I hear adverts on the radio ALL DAY LONG for out-of-state casinos

             

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              E. Zachary Knight (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:35am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              slut machines

              Whoa. I knew prostitution was legal in Nevada, but I didn't know they had machines for it now.

               

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            •  
              identicon
              Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 11:10am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

              Wake up - does the gambling occur where it is illegal? NO! Online, it occurs on your computer, where, remarkably, it's illegal.

              Go to a legal, licensed casino, and you are not breaking the law. Gamble online with an offshore service, and yes, you are breaking the (current) law.

              How hard is that to understand?

               

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 11:31am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Umm...actually only part of it occurs here. The majority of it occurs on their servers, where it is legal.

                 

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                •  
                  identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 11:35am

                  Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                  Actually, wait a minute.

                  If I have a buddy sitting at a casino table in Vegas with a bag full of my money, and he and I are on the phone, can I gamble via proxy? I tell him how much to bet, he tells me what he sees, I tell him to hit, stay, double down, etc...(assuming blackjack). Ignore whether or not a casino would allow this, just is it legal?

                  If it isn't legal then the whole "does the gambling occur where it is illegal" argument is a lot harder and trickier to defend/understand than you want to make it out to be. If it is legal then why is gambling through the same phone line (assuming dialup) using a series of 1s and 0s illegal?

                   

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                John Fenderson (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                Go to a legal, licensed casino, and you are not breaking the law. Gamble online with an offshore service, and yes, you are breaking the (current) law.


                Absolutely. However, it is the player breaking the law, not the offshore service.

                 

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                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:40pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                it's not hard to understand the US player is breaking US law

                what does that have to do with an online casino operating in another country?

                 

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              •  
                identicon
                Anonymous Coward, Mar 5th, 2012 @ 10:17am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

                What constitutes a legal licensed casino. Does the US Law apply to the rest of the world ?

                 

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        •  
          identicon
          Anonymous Reply, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 3:37pm

          We are all Criminals

          Did you watch the Stossy Report the other day? We are now all officially criminals. There are so many trivial laws on the books that every American can now be classified as a criminal. The nanny state rules. Freedom died.

           

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:04am

      Re:

      Worthy of seizure? Putting up a link on their page seems roughly as "illegal" as Mike telling us the URLs in this story.

      For example, if American Eagle Outfitters were an evil gambling site, and americaneagle.com gave you a "Were you looking for..." link to their website, should the web development company be subject to having its domain seized?

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 11:27am

        Re: Re:

        No. If the site is about gambling, and to avoid legal hassles they put the actually gambling on a second domain and use the first as a doorway, they aren't really changing much of anything.

        It's not like just putting up a link - it's their business!

         

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    GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:04am

    So, like, there's this long white bar at the the top of the browser that is usually filled with letters and numbers and often full words, and tells you where you really are. What's that thing called again...

     

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    •  
      icon
      :Lobo Santo (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:41am

      Re: Nameotomy

      It's called "The thing that only hackers and lawbreakers ever look at or type things into--you rebel, er, pirate scum. Stick to the vetted, censored, government approved websites or face indeterminate, er, indefinite detention under charges as a belligerent home-grown lone-wolf terrorist."
      --Signed, CIA/NSA/TSA/FBI/(a too many other TLA's to mention)

       

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        icon
        GMacGuffin (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:04am

        Re: Re: Nameotomy

        That has been a concern. Luckily, Firefox has a for-the-masses option to hide that pesky white bar thingy, so (for hypothetical example) my wife won't accidentally type "khols" instead of "kohls" and land on a phishing site and give them her cell and I have to go and shut down her texting account so she isn't inundated with .20 MMS every hour. (Nice brand-management, Kohls - even after an email alerting you it's still up.)

        Too bad Chrome doesn't have that hide-the-white-bar-thingy feature. Guess I'll prep for jail ... even jail is safer than IE.

         

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  •  
    identicon
    Biff, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:23am

    Up next

    Heir of playing card designer claims copyright over symbols, issues DMCA takedown for all gaming sites. US Government defends action.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:37am

    'don't seem particularly focused on stopping crimes that actually cause real harm'

    since when has that been any concern to law enforcement?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:38am

    The only reason online gambling is illegal is the Jack Abramoff scandal. Once the gig was up and Jack Abramoff exposed as a corrupt bastard everything Jack Abramoff had touched suddenly became poisonous. One of those things was support for online gambling, politicians voted it through just to show they weren't in Jack Abramoff's pocket, despite taking lots of illegal bribes and campaign contributions from him.

    Stupid logic isn't it. Under the same logic if a woman who was fierce supporter of women's rights did what Jack Abramoff did then politicians would vote to repeal the right of women to vote, just to show they weren't corrupted/bribed by her despite all the money she gave them.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Joe, May 19th, 2012 @ 4:24am

      Re:

      Err, only if she was selling votes. OK, I kid but analogy fail on that one. Making money is in no way like freedom of expression. It's not even in the same ballpark! ;)

       

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:40am

    makes you wonder why the feds are spending their time and taxpayer-funded resources on such a thing, doesn't it?

    Yes, why are the Feds spending their time prosecuting lawbreakers? It's so puzzling.

    /sarc

    You've really jumped the shark these past few months, Masnick.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:20am

      Re:

      "Yes, why are the Feds spending their time prosecuting lawbreakers? It's so puzzling."

      Depends on what the people, the taxpayers, think of the laws. If they don't like the laws then, indeed, it is a waste of taxpayer money.

      "You've really jumped the shark these past few months, Masnick."

      No, it's just that you were born retarded.

      and where is your blog that everyone visits for insightful analysis? Oh, that's right, no one cares.

       

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    •  
      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:36pm

      Re:

      "Because casinos paid them to" is the answer you're looking for.

       

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  •  
    icon
    GeneralEmergency (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:46am

    Will...

    .

    Will those of you at the Justice Department who -did not- ride the short bus to school, kindly sound off?


    (...Crickets...)


    Thought so.

    .

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Mr. Prosecutor, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:49am

    Perjury!

    I expect that "affadavit" the pig filed is available under FOIA.

    His lies are perjury.

    Perjury is a crime.

    It's just too bad that pigs are above the law.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Mr. Prosecutor, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 9:51am

      Re: Perjury!

      After actually reading the document, I see the pig's affadavit is included. Now, it's time to swear out a criminal complaint before a grand jury.

      Then (if the system it not totally corrupt) it will be time to prepare for the petit jury.

       

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  •  
    identicon
    ZaphodQB, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:06am

    Cake

    The justice Department wants to have theirs, and eat it too.
    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/12/23/internet-poker-is-sort-of-legal/

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:10am

    "If we can't make money out of it, then you can't either."

     

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    icon
    Benjo (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:16am

    If you're going to make online gambling illegal

    Then how are penny auctions not getting shutdown? At least people playing online poker know more or less what their odds are (maybe), or more importantly they know that they ARE gambling. Penny auctions try to pass themselves off as legitimate auction sites but its more of a scam/gamble than anything else, with much poorer odds.

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 10:16am

    This is just another case of the government protecting its government established gambling cartels by stifling competition. Not that I think gambling is a good thing.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 12:02pm

    Another 'mistake'?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Feb 29th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Seriously how hard was it to seize the correct domain

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodog

    that was hard to find i guess .....o.0?

     

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    dcee (profile), Feb 29th, 2012 @ 2:22pm

    Then, when all those successful websites from "evil outside of america" will be down, American casinos will start selling online poker for you. It is not a legality issue, but a protectionism issue. The US has been like that for a while, why no do it on the internet too?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Mar 1st, 2012 @ 7:42am

    Since when does the US have the right control the internet? You could imagine what would happen if in an alternative world the root servers of the .com would be in hands of the arabic nations.

     

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    •  
      identicon
      Joe, May 19th, 2012 @ 4:30am

      Re:

      Nothing prevents this even for .com and .org, from a technical point of view. In fact, you can even do it for specific computers in your own home. Remember New.Net? Or how about the HOSTS file? Plenty of organizations use their own DNS server to filter/cache domain lookups. Just ask your corporate or college IT guy about it.

      There already are recognized national domains for Asian countries, if that's what you meant instead.

       

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  •  
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    Khory (profile), Mar 1st, 2012 @ 11:07am

    Why do we give a shit if someone wants to play some online poker?

     

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  •  
    identicon
    online, Mar 24th, 2012 @ 7:18am

    re

    BTW what do you mean by wrong bodog domain?

     

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