Pro Players File Antitrust Suit Against World Poker Tour

by Lou on July 21, 2006

Three days ago seven of poker’s biggest names filed an antitrust complaint against WPT Enterprises (the World Poker Tour) in federal court in Los Angeles.

The plaintiffs, Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, Joe Hachem, Greg Raymer, and Howard Lederer, allege that the WPT and the casinos have unlawfully conspired to eliminate competition for the services and intellectual property rights of top professional poker players and that casinos have agreed with the WPT that they will not host any non-WPT televised poker tournaments. They also claim that the WPT and casinos conspired to fix the price and other terms and conditions under which the 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.

So what happens here, and what does this all mean? Amy Calistri and I discussed this issue on our radio show, Keep Flopping Aces, on www.holdemradio.com last night and we each came to similar conclusions.

When most people hear the word “lawsuit” they think about who wins and who loses. Antitrust complaints tend to be very costly for both sides, and can drag on for a long time. While each side can make some strong points in their favor, the players and the WPT will do better in the long run if they are able to build a positive relationship with each other.

Players need to earn money in WPT events and the WPT benefits from having notable names in their televised events.

I am almost certain this case will never see the inside of a courtroom. It will be settled. That makes this lawsuit part of a continuing spate of negotiations that began a while ago, when the players went public with their issues and the WPT countered with an “open letter,” which said, in essence, “We are really on your side; we are the good guys. Trust us.”

While each side needs the other, this lawsuit is a really powerful blast fired by the players. They are represented by the law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP, a heavyweight in this field, which was founded in 1909 and is an international law firm with more than 550 attorneys. Lead counsel Jeffrey Kessler has represented NFL, NBA, and other players in similar antitrust suits.

A web site for this suit has been established and you can read the complaint and keep track of other developments at http://wptlawsuit.com.

I think the players have leverage on their side. Their case is strong and the WPT can’t help but look like the heavy in this drama. Even if the case were to come to court and the WPT were to prevail, it could prove to be a public relations disaster for them.

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