Back in 1992 – well before the advent of iPods and PokerStars – the Philadelphia native jumped into the World Wide Web when he worked with BNA Online, the largest independent publisher of information and analysis products for law, tax, business, and government professionals. In addition, he participated as an industry member of the National Information Infrastructure (NII) in the early 1990s and was also the counsel for an in-house technology venture that commercialized linguistic searching tools in 1996.
“I’ve been heavily involved with the Internet ever since the very start,” says the passionate Washington D.C.-based attorney, who also previously served the Technology, Communications & Entertainment (TCE) business sector. “So if there’s something out there that is going to threaten the growth and prosperity of it, I feel very strongly that something should be done to stop it.”
To that end, Leyden is letting his actions speak even louder than his words. He joined forces earlier this year with Joe Brennan Jr. to form the Internet Media Entertainment & Gaming Association (iMEGA), which touts itself on its Web site (www.imega.org) as a non-profit “professional association dedicated to the continued growth and innovation of the Internet.”
On June 5, iMEGA filed suit (iMEGA v. Gonzales, et al) in the U.S. Circuit Court in Trenton, N.J. seeking to obtain a temporary restraining order to stop the Department of Justice from implementing regulations to enforce the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA). iMEGA claims in its suit that Internet gambling is protected by First Amendment privacy rights and the UIGEA is unconstitutional.
The government, represented by Jacqueline Snead, came back with a 46-page response to iMEGA’s claim, citing that it had no grounds for the lawsuit because it lacked legal standing. Snead’s office declined to comment on the case for this story, but did allow access to its response, which stated that that iMEGA’s claim that the UIGEA violates “the First Amendment, a World Trade Organization ruling, the Tenth Amendment, and the prohibition against ex post facto laws,” are all “unfounded.”
The motion also claims that since iMEGA members are not currently being prosecuted, the organization has no grounds to further pursue a restraining order.
On Sept. 26, Judge Mary Cooper heard arguments from both sides and felt that because of the case’s “complicated backdrop” she would hold off on her ruling on whether or not to have the case thrown out for at least 30 days, which means a decision should be forthcoming in the next two weeks.
“We think we’re going to survive,” says Leyden, who is listed as iMEGA’s president and specializes in independent contractor, tax and business litigation as well as sports and entertainment law. “We sincerely believe that in the privacy of your own home, you should be permitted to place a bet on the Internet.”
Leyden also believes that the murky regulations released earlier this month for the UIGEA will only help iMEGA’s case.
“When they came out with the regulations they were supposed to explain what ‘unlawful’ is and they failed to do that,” he says. “Basically what they’re doing is putting the decision of whether or not a transaction is legal or not in the hands of a low-level bank employee. It could be a compliance officer, it could be a clerk or it could be a teller. Either way, it’s on the shoulders of these people, who are only going to be prone to err on the side of caution and say that almost every transaction is illegal. That’s only human nature.”
The fact that Judge Cooper is residing over the case is also something that Leyden feels will benefit his side of the case.
“She’s a very well-respected judge who has a history of handling complex cases,” Leyden said. “To her credit, she does her homework and is very mindful of the First Amendment. We’re hopeful she’ll do that here when it comes to the digital civil rights of the people.”
Even still, at least one expert feels that iMEGA’s case is going to be a tough sell to the court.
“It’s going to be awfully hard for iMEGA to prevail here,” said Buffalo State Business Law Professor Joseph Kelly, who is also the co-editor of Gaming Law Review. “Nobody is prosecuting them. And the regulations haven’t even gone into effect yet, so I just don’t see this having any legs.