The sponsorship agreement was announced in March of 2008 as that year’s World Series of Poker approached, and it was a serious publicity boost for Everest Poker. The three-year deal gave the highly-ranked European poker website the opportunity for brand placement on the felt of all WSOP tables and on the inner ring of featured tables during the WSOP, including all that would be spotlighted on ESPN broadcasts. Other rights involving satellite tournaments and brand-name usage were included in the deal as well. But all of that came crashing to a halt when Everest’s parent company, Ultra Internet Media, filed a lawsuit against Harrah’s Entertainment, the parent company of the World Series of Poker.
As the agreement dictated, Ultra Internet Media paid Harrah’s $6.2 million for the 2008 WSOP and another $7.9 million for the 2009 Series, and planned to remit payment in the amount of $8.4 million for the upcoming 2010 WSOP. The “on-felt” sponsorship was going well through the first two years, but Ultra Internet Media noticed a glitch in the agreement during the ESPN broadcasts of the previous Series. When they were aired on a network affiliate in France, the Everest name was absent while Full Tilt Poker was prominently displayed instead, thereby breaching the agreement.
According to the Las Vegas Sun, Ultra Internet Media S.A., represented by Marquis & Aurbach of Las Vegas, filed its lawsuit against Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. in Las Vegas on April 1, 2010. Court documents reveal that Harrah’s, Everest, and ESPN met in February of 2009 to discuss the France affiliate violations, and Harrah’s and ESPN did agree to force RTL9 to replace the Full Tilt logo with Everest in broadcasts going forward. But as of February 2010, that had not occurred.
The lawsuit charges that since the largest portion of Everest revenue comes from customers in France, Ultra Internet Media has suffered losses. “Every material breach of the agreement represents lost potential future profits, erosion of goodwill and compromise of UIM’s international business reputation.”
This court action comes less than two months prior to the start of the 2010 World Series of Poker. Few sponsorships have been announced by Harrah’s Entertainment for the upcoming tournament series, and the company can now erase expected income from Everest from its list. This not only creates a revenue gap but leaves Harrah’s with little time to rectify the situation with a settlement or the replacement of a brand logo for its tables.
No word has come from Harrah’s Entertainment or the World Series of Poker regarding the Ultra Internet Media lawsuit.