CEO defends WPT policy in ‘open letter’ to players

Jul 24, 2006 3:36 AM

Despite the brief and somewhat "vanilla" flavor of Steve Lipscomb’s response to the lawsuit, he more openly expressed his views about disgruntled poker players in an "Open Letter to the Poker Community," which he distributed last December, shortly after the time that Annie Duke said the issue came to a head.

In that four page letter, Lipscomb said the filming release was "standard" and required by all production companies "or the television broadcaster will refuse to air our material."

Lipscomb said the releases were "broadly drafted to protect against frivolous lawsuits." He did not elaborate on the nature of the lawsuits or who would file them.

Although he defended the use of the "broadly drafted" filming release, Lipscomb said he was not insensitive to players’ concerns over how their images were used.

"Without my approval, a banner ad featuring three prominent players was used by a WPT affiliate to drive people to our online poker site," Lipscomb said. "Within an hour of hearing about the ad, I had it removed — not because we were legally obligated to, but because the players asked us to — and we take their concerns seriously."

Lipscomb went on to emphasize that he was sympathetic to players’ concerns, but would not subject the WPT to "frivolous lawsuits" by limiting the rights the release provided.

"I am happy to go on record today to promise the poker community that we will always listen to a player who feels that he or she is uncomfortable with how we use their image," Lipscomb said. "If we feel we can or should, we fill modify or eliminate that use. And, if not, we will explain, to the best of our ability, why not.

"What I cannot do is subject WPTE to endless lawsuits by severely restricting the rights we obtain in our filming release. No credible production company could or would do so."

To the players who claim that their sponsorship deals are in jeopardy because of the release, Lipscomb said, "this is not a real concern."

"The few players trying to make this a wedge issue want people to believe that players may lose endorsement opportunities because of signing WPT or ESPN film releases. This is not a real concern, but a remote hypothetical. You need to ask if any player has lost an endorsement deal because of WPT, ESPN, Fox, etc. filming releases. The answer is there are none. Sponsors and manufacturers deal with these circumstances all the time — on every television show from Survivor to Seinfeld. If you are lucky enough to have your television poker exposure make you a star worthy of endorsement contracts, the release will not impede that process."

Finally, Lipscomb appears to reprimand disgruntled players, who "seem to forget" that the World Poker Tour was part of the driving force that elevated poker and poker players to their current lofty status.

"In a broader sense, it is the World Poker Tour, its staff and casino partners that have made this poker boom possible," Lipscomb said. "Every player that commentates on a rival TV show, every player that wins a million dollar first prize, every player that participates in or endorses an online poker room, every player that sits down in a packed poker room full of new players, benefits from the World Poker Tour.

"Some people seem to forget that just three years ago you had to wait a year to get a shot at a million dollar first prize tournament.

"Poker rooms were being shut down across the country and industry leaders were holding conferences seeking ways to save a dying business.

"People forget that the biggest five and ten thousand dollar buy-in events had thirty to sixty people in them — not the six to nine hundred players you see today."