In July of 2006, seven top professional poker players filed a lawsuit against the World Poker Tour over the release form that players were forced to sign in order to play a WPT event. Nearly two years later, the case has been settled with a revision of that release form that was effective immediately.
Originally, the seven players who filed the lawsuit were Chris Ferguson, Andy Bloch, Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, Joseph Hachem, and Greg Raymer . The basis of the suit was that the release form that the WPT required all players in WPT events to sign violated federal and state antitrust laws by giving WPT Enterprises the right to use the names and images of any player in any way the company chose without being liable to compensate those players in any way. Not only did the players feel that it was a violation of federal and state laws, but signing the release form may violate contracts – such as sponsorships and public relations agreements – they had signed with other companies.
In the spring of 2007, the players filed a motion for summary judgment with the court, but that motion was subsequently denied. Thus, the lawsuit persisted for another year, during which time one of the plaintiffs in the case, Joe Hachem, decided to play WPT tournaments regardless of the case. At some point that was not publicized, Hachem and Raymer both withdrew their names from the case altogether.
Finally, WPT Enterprises decided to finalize a settlement by revising the player release form. The company refused to admit to any wrongdoing but simply wanted to wipe the case from the books and meet the request of the players. With no money changing hands, the suit was settled, players were satisfied, and new release forms implemented on April 19th at the WPT World Championship at the Bellagio.
Ferguson noted in a press release, “We are happy to have come to an agreement that is fair to all players, and to have put in place a new release that clears up ambiguities in how players’ images may be used. We are especially happy that this new release will apply to all poker players who wish to participate in WPT tournaments and events. WPTE has created some of the best poker events in the world, and we are excited to participate in them once again.”
Seen paying the $25,000 entry fee to play in the event were Lederer, Bloch, and Ferguson. Duke was said to have been teaching a WSOP Academy and was not able to play due to the scheduling conflict. No word on the reason for Gordon’s absence.
Steve Lipscomb, President, CEO and founder of WPT Enterprises, noted, “We are glad to put this dispute behind us, and we look forward to working with all players to grow the sport of poker.”