PokerStars is asking a California judge to throw out a lawsuit against it filed by 2016 World Series of Poker Main Event runner-up Gordon Vayo, because it believes the Golden State isn’t the right place for it.
A motion to dismiss Vayo’s suit was scheduled to be heard Sept. 25 in front of US District Court Central District of California Western Division Judge Frederick Mumm. However, it has now been moved to Nov. 6.
Vayo earned more than $4.6 million finishing second to 2016 WSOP Main Event Champion Qui Nguyen. He claims PokerStars refused to pay him almost $700,000 he won in a Spring Championship of Online Poker (SCOOP) event last year.
Was Vayo in Canada?
Vayo filed the lawsuit this past May alleging the site falsely accused him of breaching its terms of service by surreptitiously playing the event from inside the United States. Vayo claims to have been in Canada throughout the May 2017 tournament.
However, PokerStars claims Vayo was connected to the internet through a mobile device in Los Angeles using a Canadian mobile internet provider to make it look like he was in Canada.
Vayo has admitted to using a virtual private network (VPN) to access video streaming services while in Canada as an explanation for why PokerStars may have red flagged his account in the first place.
However, Vayo’s lawyers also allege PokerStars froze his account and spent nearly a year harassing him. All under the guise that it was investigating his whereabouts during the tournament.
The lawsuit claims PokerStars pried into every aspect of Vayo’s record and demanded he produce detailed retroactive proof of his location. Plus, the site even opened investigations into his friends’ accounts.
Vayo claims he submitted the evidence he was in Canada that PokerStars asked for. However, they essentially turned around and said it wasn’t enough.
Is PokerStars freerolling players?
The suit goes on to allege PokerStars has been freerolling relocating US players for years:
“Since approximately 2011, (PokerStars) has engaged in a practice of approving U.S. citizens and residents for play on the PokerStars.com site, allowing and encouraging them to play on the site, happily taking their money – in many cases for years. Then, after a U.S. citizen or resident wins a significant amount of money on the PokerStars.com site, (PokerStars) conducts a sham investigation into the user’s activities and the location of the user’s access of the site, placing the onus on the player to retroactively prove that it is ‘inconceivable’ that his or her play could have originated from within the United States, in order to gin up a pretext to deny payment.
“In this way (PokerStars) takes the money of (Vayo) and other users of the PokerStars.com site with impunity, while depriving the same users of their largest winnings if and when they occur.”
In its motion to dismiss filed in July, PokerStars claims California is not the right venue to hear the case. Mostly because its online gaming license is in the Isle of Man, UK.
Lawyers for the site are also arguing it would be too costly to hold the case in California.
Can Vayo get a fair shake in the Isle of Man?
However, Vayo’s legal team says the same about moving it to the Isle of Man. In fact, Vayo claims he won’t be able to secure competent counsel on the Isle of Man. Plus, the courts there are likely biased because the gaming industry is such a large part of the local economy.
The suit stems from the first event on the 2017 PokerStars SCOOP schedule. The final five players chopped, leaving an additional $100,000 for the winner. Vayo went on to capture the title and earn a total of $692,460.
PokerStars was forced out of the US market and charged under various money laundering and illegal gambling laws in 2011. It settled the case and came back in 2016 after obtaining a license to operate in New Jersey. The site is now looking to move into the Pennsylvania online gambling market when it opens as well.