ltra Internet Media S.A (UIM), owner of Everest Poker, sued the World Series of Poker in a Las Vegas federal court last April 1st, claiming that the WSOP breached their us$ 22.5 million sponsorship agreement when an ESPN affiliate in Europe, RTL9, broadcast the tournament in France and electronically replaced Everest Poker’s logo with rival Full Tilt.
Everest had secured the multi-year sponsorship with the WSOP prior to the 2008 event, allowing the company to be the sole poker related table sponsor of the event and enjoy prominent logo positions on the felt at every table in the tournament, as well as exclusive brand positioning on the ‘inner-rung’ of the final table.
In a lawsuit filed earlier this month, Everest Poker said that it paid us$ 6.2 million for the 2008 tournament sponsorship and us$ 7.9 million for the 2009 tournament, and has now decided to cancel the final us$ 8.4 million payment for this year's tournament which begins next month in Las Vegas’ Rio Hotel & Casino.
Responding to the lawsuit, attorneys for Harrah’s denied allegations that the WSOP breached the sponsorship agreement, arguing that UIM had entered into the agreement primarily to gain exposure in the United States for its Everest Poker website and that the agreement did not require that the event be broadcast into any particular country, with France not even mentioned in the agreement.
“Nobody from Harrah's made any representation during any of the negotiations or in the promotional agreement concerning any ESPN distribution or WSOP programming in France,” said Harrah's attorneys in their filing last week.
“Indeed, at the time of the negotiations, UIM did not have an online gaming license recognised by French authorities. It was broadly observed that poker programming was not distributed by French television stations unless tournaments were sponsored by a French licensee,” the filing said.
Harrah’s said that in 2007 and 2008 the WSOP was broadcast by ESPN and contracted parties in over 170 countries including the United States, collectively to over 250 million households, for over 6,000 hours. The company said in its filing that UIM had “certainly gained all the exposure for the EverestPoker.net website that it could have hoped for, and more.”
After UIM and Everest Poker raised concerns about the French broadcasts last year, Harrah’s said that an arrangement was agreed to in which ESPN would find a broadcaster for coverage of the WSOP in Spain and Italy at no extra cost to UIM and Everest Poker. Harrah’s said that the combined viewers of Spain and Italy would be about the same as France, the filing said. Harrah's also agreed Everest Poker would be described as the presenting sponsor of the WSOP during the broadcasts in certain European countries, but not France. The case continues.