The Strait of Gibraltar pinches the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea into a 7.7-mile slit of water that joins the two great saltwater masses. Ancient writers called mounts on each side of the channel — including the Rock of Gibraltar — the Pillars of Hercules. The Pillars marked the far point of Hercules's wide travels and thus the limits of terra cognita and mare cognitum.
Today the Sixth Circuit upheld an order remitting two online gamblers to the tender mercies of the court system in the self-governing British overseas possession of Gibraltar. The Internet bettors accused PartyGaming, a Gibraltar company, of violating Ohio law by falsely implying that no collusion took place in PartyGaming's digital poker parlor. The district court raised forum non conveniens on its own and dismissed the case in favor of refiling, if at all, in Gibraltar.
The Sixth Circuit put weight on the fact that PartyGaming's "Terms and Conditions of Use" included a choice of law clause — selecting Gibraltar law — and a forum selection clause — which the court paraphrases as providing that "any disputes shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of Gibraltar." Wong v. PartyGaming LTD., No. 08-4295, slip op. at 2 (6th Cir. Dec. 21, 2009). The panel also rejected the plaintiffs' chief gripe about Gibraltar — that its courts don't seem to allow for class actions. PartyGaming said that they do, too, permit class cases, but the court said it doesn't matter.