According to an article that appeared in last Friday’s Las Vegas Sun, Ultra Internet Media S.A. (UIM), the owner of online poker room Everest Poker, has filed a lawsuit against Harrah’s Entertainment Inc., owner of the World Series of Poker (WSOP). The lawsuit claims that Harrah’s is in breach of contract of the three-year deal it signed to make Everest Poker the on-felt sponsor of the WSOP.
Everest Poker’s logo was placed in the middle of every table at the WSOP and the inside ring of each featured table, which gets significant camera time during ESPN broadcasts. UIM paid Harrah’s $6.2 million for the privilege in 2008, $7.9 million in 2009, and is slated to pay $8.4 million this year.
On Thursday, April 1st, however, UIM told Harrah’s that it will not be cutting the check for 2010 and requested that its logo to be removed from the tables. Unfortunately for Harrah’s, this was no April Fools Day joke. UIM alleges that throughout the duration of the contract, an ESPN affiliate in France, RTL9, replaced the Everest Poker logo with one of its major competitor’s, Full Tilt Poker. This failure to show Everest Poker’s logo represents a breach of contract by Harrah’s, according to UIM.
Additionally, UIM alleges that Everest Poker management met with ESPN and Harrah’s executives at the ESPN campus in Bristol, Connecticut in February 2009 to discuss the logo issues. In the lawsuit, UIM says, “Harrah’s and ESPN agreed to control their affiliate, RTL9, and require RTL9 to cease causing violations of the agreement during its broadcasts and transmissions into France.”
Despite the meeting, the Full Tilt logo was still featured in the broadcasts of the WSOP on RTL9 as recently as February 14th, 2010. This was essentially the straw that broke the camel’s back for UIM. “Every material breach of the agreement represents lost potential future profits, erosion of goodwill, and compromise of UIM’s international business reputation,” reads the lawsuit.
Making matters worse, France just happens to be UIM’s most lucrative market, so not having its logo broadcast there is particularly damaging. Antoine Saout, from Saint Martin des Champs, France, was the lone Everest Poker-sponsored player at the final table of the 2009 WSOP Main Event. Saout, who goes by the screen name “Tonio292” on Everest Poker, looked like he might be on his way to the championship at one point, but ran into some nasty luck down the stretch and bowed out in third place.
Harrah’s had no comment on Friday and told the Las Vegas Sun that it had yet to be served with the lawsuit.
Before Everest Poker inked its deal with Harrah’s, Party Poker was the official online poker room sponsor of the WSOP and had its logo placed prominently on each table. Party Poker decided to discontinue its involvement after it withdrew from the U.S. market following the passing of the Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act (UIGEA) in 2006.
Everest Poker currently ranks eighth in the industry with a seven-day average of 2,100 cash game players, according to PokerScout.com. For comparison, Full Tilt Poker ranks second with a seven-day average of 16,200 cash game players. Everest does not accept U.S. players, whereas Full Tilt does.