Czech casino owner and poker player Leon Tsoukernik is suing Facebook for $24 million over advertising he claims have appropriated his intellectual property.
According to the lawsuit filed in the regional court in Pilsen, Czech Republic, ads appearing on the Facebook platform are promoting online casinos by falsely using the name and branding of Tsoukernik’s King’s Resort in Rozvadov.
Tsoukernik told Prague-based newspaper Hospodářské noviny (HN) the ads make claims such as, “The best Czech casino is now online!” And “We will give 3000 CZK to all new players!”
King’s Casino is one of Europe’s biggest card rooms, but it currently does not offer real-money online casino gaming.
“King’s Casino is not online. Moreover, the resort is currently closed due to Covid regulations,” Tsoukernik told HN. “Someone who can’t be traced and doesn’t even have a license to operate has decided to use our name, our casino, and advertise on Facebook.
“As a result, a powerful platform is helping fraudsters and takes money for it. That’s why we’re suing Facebook for damages,” he added.
‘Symbiosis with Scammers’
It’s nothing new for fraudulent online casinos to steal the name of a prominent land-based casino in order to hoodwink players into believing they’re engaging with the digital arm of a global brand.
Facebook claims that it vets every advertisement prior to publication. But a Buzzfeed News investigation in January, which spoke to several former Facebook employees, claims this was not always the c1ase.
Despite recent steps by Facebook to curb deceptive advertising, Buzzfeed found that the relentless upscaling of its advertising operations in recent years — to an expected $80 billion this year — had created a “financial symbiosis with scammers, hackers, and disinformation peddlers who use its platforms to rip-off and manipulate people around the world.”
“We’ve asked Facebook several times to take them down,” Tsoukernik said. “But I have never experienced such stupidity on their part.”
In 2018, Wynn Macau reported that copycat sites using its name had risen in volume and sophistication, appearing increasingly professional and legitimate.
Operators have in the past attempted to defend their intellectual property rights aggressively against such sites but are generally playing a game of whack-a-mole. The sites are largely based in Asia and can quickly shut themselves down before reappearing under different URLs.
In 2015, LVS was awarded $2 million in damages and granted a permanent injunction against 35 Chinese online gambling websites by a federal court in Nevada. But it’s unlikely any of the damages were ever claimed.