n their motion for summary judgment, Plaintiffs Chris Ferguson, Andrew Bloch, Annie Duke, Phil Gordon, Joseph Hachem, Howard Lederer and Greg Raymer have presented undisputed facts which establish that WPTE, which owns the World Poker Tour, has committed multiple violations of federal antitrust laws.
Specifically, the Plaintiffs seek a summary declaration by the Court that WPTE and the casinos which host WPT events have unlawfully conspired to force poker players to sign non-negotiable "releases" that require those players to grant WPTE the right to use their valuable names, likenesses, voices and images for zero compensation so that WPTE can exploit these rights to promote its own products and services.
The Plaintiffs contend that the undisputed facts establish that WPTE and the casinos have agreed to boycott and exclude from WPT events any poker player who does not sign such a "release." The Plaintiffs have also offered undisputed evidence that WPTE and the casinos are conspiring to restrict the number of poker tournaments in competition with the WPT by agreeing that the casinos cannot sponsor any televised non-WPT events.
The Plaintiffs contend that these agreements constitute "per se" or "quick look" violations of federal antitrust laws. The "per se" and "quick look" tests apply to conduct which is so inherently anticompetitive that a court may summarily decide that such conduct violates U.S. antitrust laws without the need for full discovery or a trial.
If the motion is granted, WPTE will be permanently enjoined from: agreeing with the casinos to require the Plaintiffs and other poker players to sign releases granting WPTE the right to use those players’ intellectual property rights to promote WPTE products and services; using the grant of Plaintiffs’ intellectual property rights obtained from past releases; and prohibiting casinos from sponsoring non-WPT poker tournaments.
Jeffrey Kessler, lead counsel for the poker players, stated: "If the players prevail in this summary judgment motion, WPTE’s unlawful agreements will come to a quick end without the need for further discovery or a trial. All poker players would then be able to compete in WPT tournaments without being forced to give up their valuable intellectual property rights for no compensation and the casinos would be free to sponsor competing televised poker tournaments of their own."
Plaintiffs are represented by the law firm of Dewey Ballantine LLP, whose attorneys have successfully represented NFL, NBA and other players in similar antitrust lawsuits.