by: Glenn Haussman.
Some of the world’s top poker players are embroiled in a bitter antitrust lawsuit against one of the organizations which has helped propel them to fame. The players are seeking to hold the World Poker Tour (WPT) accountable and seek damages...
Top Poker Stars Suing World Poker Tour
...due to wrongful conduct committed against federal.
The lawsuit, which is playing out in the Unites States District Court, Central District of California Western division is pitting the World Poker Tour against Chris Ferguson, Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, Joseph Hachem, Howard Lederer, and Greg Raymer.
The WPT operates a series of televised, high stakes poker tournaments run by various casinos located throughout the United States and in parts of Canada and Europe. In the United States the program is run on the Travel Channel where it has been a ratings powerhouse.
The Complaint alleges that WPT and the casinos have unlawfully conspired to eliminate competition for the services and intellectual property rights of top, high stakes professional poker players. In particular, the Complaint alleges the casinos have agreed with WPTE that they will not host any non-WPT televised poker tournaments. The Complaint also alleges that WPTE and the casinos have conspired to fix the price and other terms and conditions under which Plaintiffs and other professional poker players are forced to give up their valuable services and intellectual property rights in order to participate in WPT tournaments.
“WPTE has stacked the deck against all poker players who wish to compete in its tournaments. They are using our names and images to sell their products without our prior consent and without any compensation. We cannot let these wrongful actions stand. We will prosecute this lawsuit for as long as it takes to change WPTE’s unlawful ways,” said Chris Ferguson.
Player and Plaintiff Annie Duke stated that: “We are bringing this action to change the way WPTE treats players. Our goal is not just to win for ourselves, but to set a precedent so that all players can be dealt a fair hand.”
Plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP, whose lead counsel, Jeffrey Kessler, has successfully represented NFL, NBA, and other players in similar antitrust suits. Mr. Kessler stated the following: “It is now well established that the antitrust laws protect professional athletes and other players when agreements are entered into that restrain competition for their services. This is as true for the business of professional poker tournaments as it is for professional football, basketball, and other sports. Professional poker players are entitled to a free market for their services, which will also benefit consumers since the result will be more and higher quality poker tournaments.”
WPT\'s General Counsel, Adam Pliska, believes the asserted antitrust and other claims severely distort the facts and misrepresent the current state of competition in the poker
industry. "We believe the claims alleged in this suit are without merit and plan to vigorously defend our position while pursuing all available legal avenues necessary to end this unfounded attack," said Pilska. The Company will be represented by the Los Angeles based law firm of Gibson Dunn and Crutcher LLP.
In a court document filed on behalf of the WPT -- and obtained by onlinepokerhangout.com -- which sets out to discredit the player’s claim, before the World Poker Tour began airing on television the poker industry was dormant. Poker rooms were closing throughout the country and the WPT helped resuscitate the business. The brief asserts poker is more popular than ever before and has created a mother lode of tournaments not sponsored by the WPT in which these players can thrive as well as competing programming such as the World Series of Poker on ESPN.
“The poker industry is a model of competitive marketplace, with more and greater opportunities and choices for casinos, broadcasters, publishers, players and consumers alike. For Plaintiffs to suggest in the face of the recent explosion in the poker industry sparked by the World Poker Tour, that WPT has restricted the output of poker tournaments or otherwise restrained competition in the poker industry is disingenuous and without foundation,” said the brief.
"We are proud of our contribution to the growth of the poker industry and are happy many players have benefited from it," said Steve Lipscomb, WPT founder and CEO. "Therefore, we find it disappointing that a handful of players, of the many thousands who play in WPT events each year, have decided to make these claims even as the sport continues to grow."
© Copyright 2006 Online Poker Hangout This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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