Kentucky Politics

The Kentucky Supreme Court on Thursday reinstated an award of more than $1 billion against the illegal internet gambling site, PokerStars. The Supreme Court ruling reversed an appeals court ruling that had ruled in favor of PokerStars.

The state originally filed suit against the site in Franklin Circuit in 2010. It claimed PokerStars had collected $290,230,077 over a five-year period from about 34,000 Kentucky gamblers. The state sought triple damages plus interest from the site, which was run offshore by a criminal syndicate, according to the ruling.

The Court of Appeals reversed the circuit ruling, declaring that the state had no standing to pursue a judgment against the site. The state appealed that ruling to the state’s high court.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court declared the state has standing to bring the action as a “person.” It said the award should not be considered a windfall.

“..it is a recoupment of some portion of the countless dollars the criminal syndicate has cost Kentucky collectively and Kentuckians individually. The Commonwealth of Kentucky suffered financial losses along with the tragic damage to its citizens. Mental and physical healthcare systems that care for the citizens harmed by the illegal gambling are supported in part by the state. Money sent to offshore gambling accounts is lost and the state deprived of the taxes to which it is entitled,” the ruling stated.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Gov. Andy Beshear celebrated the ruling, saying it would bring nearly $1.3 billion to the state, revenue that would help the state manage its finances during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This better positions us to emerge from this painful pandemic to help Kentuckians, help our businesses, provide quality health care to more Kentuckians, strengthen our public schools and keep our promise to educators and other public employees – some of whom were on the front lines battling the fallout from their greed,” Beshear said.

Beshear said the state will aggressively pursue the award from PokerStars once the court’s order is finalized.