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The latest in a list of controversies to hit the Indian poker industry is the claim by India Poker Championship (IPC) that Thrill Poker is conducting unsolicited promotions for the upcoming IPC August Edition on their online site.
In a first-of-its-kind case, IPC is alleging that Thrill Poker has been promoting a Freeroll promising a seat to the IPC August Edition Main Event worth INR 30K along with flights and accommodation without permission from the tournament organizers.
“We have an exclusive tie-up for all online promotions with SpartanPoker.com and any use of the IPC brand or our event without our permission is trademark infringement. Such sites and their branding will not be allowed to the event including but not limited to wearing advertising patches and all representatives/brand ambassadors/ Pro Team members/ Promotional winners will be denied entry in the tournament,” said IPC co-Director Rajeev Kanjani.
He went on to add, “We are one of the oldest companies in the domestic poker industry and always try and keep the players interest first. Such drastic steps are not something we would ever want to take but Thrill Poker has left us with no other option”.
We spoke to Rohit Bhalla from Spartan Poker about the issue. He was very forthcoming about the conflict, “We have an exclusive sponsorship deal in place with IPC for the August Edition and it obviously comes with a substantial monetary value. We will protect our interests here and are presently consulting our legal team and will take appropriate steps against the parties involved.”
“After repeated discussions and warnings, Thrill Poker was unable to understand our stand so we are left with no other option but to take drastic measures so that these things aren’t repeated in the future,” commented Bhalla.
In response, Thrill Poker's Chief Marketing Officer Tanmay Sahay said, "We are sorry to learn about this decision that has been reached by the directors of the IPC. The Indian poker community is very, very small and word gets around quickly so even though we did not want to do this on a public forum, the following is our response – Thrill Poker's intention is and always will be to help the game of Poker grow in India, which was the reason we decided to invest our marketing budget in organising satellites for one of the more prominent tournaments in India, in the hope that it would encourage participation. In fact, even for the other satellites that we plan to conduct for IPC and other tournaments in India and abroad, we are not planning on charging any commission or tournament fees. This is a non-profit activity we are conducting to encourage and ultimately increase participation in the tournament Poker scene in India and abroad. Frankly speaking, I find it disheartening that people are pointing fingers instead of joining hands and moving forward.
As for comments from Mr. Kanjani and Mr. Bhalla, in our legal team's opinion, we aren't infringing on any trademarks for two reasons. One, we are in no way trying to represent that we are a part of the IPC or trying to pass ourselves off as the IPC. I don't think there's any doubt about that. Secondly we have at no point represented ourselves to be satellite partners of the IPC. Thrill Poker is running this series independently so as to grow the size of the poker market in India. Our legal team will be available to discuss the exact nature and details of the alleged trademark infringement.
Further, Thrill Poker has organised this series of events to give players the opportunity to play at the IPC. Once they win a satellite, they'll be paid the amount of the buy-in through a bank transfer and they can decide where to spend that money. It is important to note that winners of freerolls or satellites will not be going to the IPC as representatives of Thrill Poker."
Rohit Bhalla commented, “In Mr Sahay's own words – Thrill Poker has decided to spend their "Marketing" budget into organizing satellites for IPC on their site. And as is the case with any such marketing activities, the promoters' agenda is to increase traffic on their site, which Thrill is doing by blatantly trying to piggy back on the IPC brand and goodwill, even after they have been expressly refused and clarified on the fact that only SpartanPoker.com has the rights to do online satellites for IPC August.
If they want to mask this trademark infringement and call it a "charitable" activity for promotion of poker in India, frankly that isn't fooling anyone. Any freeroll conducted on a poker site is done for the site's promotion amongst poker players, a fact which I am sure won't be lost upon Mr Sahay from Thrill poker.”
Rajeev Kanjani further commented, “With the ban on the Thrill pro team and all their online seat winners in IPC events, we are not sure how these freerolls and satellites will be helping the players, in fact the misrepresentation that this online event will get you into the IPC live event is false advertising to the players since Thrill has no understanding with the tournament organizers and is in breach of the exclusive online arrangement IPC has with SpartanPoker.com.
It is sad that Thrill Poker has to resort to this desperate attempt to revive their site, which is clearly heading nowhere. How can a site with no footfalls even claim to want to grow the game in the country by misrepresenting things to the players, they clearly seem desperate.”
The IPC August Edition Main Event freeroll is scheduled today at 9:30 pm on Thrill Poker. It remains to be seen if the site goes ahead with the promotion or retracts the same given the reaction of the tournament organizers and sponsors.
Keep following this story right here on PokerGuru.