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Emily D. Swoboda

Poker Showdown

3 May 2006

The Bodog Entertainment Group, owner of online gambling site Bodog, found itself in a bit of a pickle last month over the debut of its poker reality TV show, "Calvin Ayre's Wild Card Poker."

Babette Pepaj, owner of Los Angeles-based reality TV production company BlueMoon Entertainment, filed a complaint with the Los Angeles Superior Court on April 4 against Bodog for, among other things, breach of contract, claiming the show was her idea.

According to the complaint, upon meeting Bodog owner Calvin Ayre in March 2005 at an Esquire Magazine Oscar party in Los Angeles, Pepaj told him that she was a reality TV producer and director and that she had a show concept befitting Bodog.

The following month, she claims, a BlueMoon PR representative met Ayre at the Bodog Lakers Poker charity event in Los Angeles, and again the reality TV show came up. At this time, she says, Ayre expressed interest in the project and put BlueMoon and Pepaj in contact with Bodog Marketing Director Susan Mainzer, with whom she signed a non-disclosure agreement and shared details of her idea for a reality TV show called "Poker Showdown."

Pepaj claims that between April and August 2005, she was shuffled around among Bodog executives, each assuring her that the company was still "extremely interested" in the project.

The project failed to move forward, however, and Pepaj says she never heard from Bodog again. She is alleging that Bodog stole the idea from her and turned it into Wild Card Poker.

Pepaj learned in February that Bodog was preparing to shoot Wild Card Poker and that the program would begin airing on Fox Sports Net (FSN) on April 15.

She filed an initial complaint on April 4, asking for an injunction to prevent the program from airing, but the judge ruled on April 5 that BlueMoon was not entitled to an injunction, and the show began airing as scheduled.

Pepaj filed an amended complaint on April 25 naming FSN as an additional defendant.

According to the amended complaint, Pepaj presented FSN on April 5 with all documentation regarding the allegations against Bodog, including the project proposal, budget proposal, and all correspondence between Bodog and herself, with hopes that the network would pull the plug on the show.

FSN did not respond, however, and aired the show anyway, prompting Pepaj to file the amended complaint.

"It's surprising that Fox Sports Net hasn't rendered any sort of opinion on the case, even as the network continues to collect money to air the show," Pepaj said. "Bodog's attorneys have told me in person that if we win a judgment, they will make sure Bodog has no assets in the U.S. for us to collect. They seem intent to make sure FSN takes the brunt of the claim."

Ayre, meanwhile, says he is prepared to go on the counter attack.

"We are actually not through with them yet," he said. "I am going to make an example of these people to show what happens when you frivolously sue me."

Ayre acknowledges that Bodog asked Bluemoon to submit a proposal for a TV reality show, but the only parameters were that it involved poker and Calvin Ayre.

"Those are the only two similarities," he said. "The show is about my life. How the hell can they tell me what's going on in my life?"

Ayre also has a different account of the two alleged conversations with Pepaj.

"I don't remember this," he said. "She is one of many people I meet at parties and don't remember them later on, I am sure."

In a formal response to the allegations, filed April 11 with the LA Superior Court, Bodog stated, "We have retained counsel to respond to the allegations being made as against us and our defense and counterclaim will be filed with the court in due course. We are planning to meet with the plaintiffs and their counsel to attempt to resolve this matter without recourse to further litigation."

Pepaj's attorney, David Beitchman, met last week with Bodog's lawyers to discuss settlement options, but Pepaj said things didn't go according to plan.

"There were no settlement talks," she said. "Despite public statements from Bodog's lawyers (indicating that the company wants to resolve the issue), a meeting last Thursday lasted just eight minutes. It quickly became clear that the sole purpose of that meeting was to intimidate us.

"We were told that if we did not withdraw the case within 24 hours, Bodog would file a countersuit. (They gave no indication what the suit would be based on). They told us that they will 'appeal, appeal and keep appealing any judgment,' and in the end, they would make sure that Bodog had no assets in the United States for us to collect. They told me personally that they would make an example of Bluemoon to discourage future lawsuits. It was very clear that Bodog was not interested in discussing any sort of settlement."

Nevertheless, Pepaj says she is determined to see it through.

"We are vigorously pursuing the case against Bodog and Fox Sports Net," she said. "I've read reports on several Web sites where Bodog has made untrue statements. I've been in the TV production business for more than 10 years, and I don't want to stoop to their level."

Click here to view BlueMoon's complaint against Bodog.

Poker Showdown is republished from
Emily D. Swoboda
Emily D. Swoboda