A pair of New Jersey sports betting operators have entered the legal ring in a fight over a manual on how to place a sports bet.
In a 12-page complaint filed Tuesday in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, William Hill US says that FanDuel infringed on its copyrighted “How to Bet Guide.” According to William Hill, FanDuel lifted material from its guide and distributed it at the Meadowlands Racetrack in East Rutherford, New Jersey.
FanDuel, also one of the leading daily fantasy sports platforms, started offering real-money sports betting in the Garden State in mid-July. William Hill provides sports betting at the rival Monmouth Park in Oceanport, as well as at the Ocean Resort Casino in Atlantic City.
The lawsuit provided side-by-side comparisons of the two betting guides. According to the suit, the most blatant copyright infringement came when it was discovered that FanDuel “actually forgot to remove William Hill’s name” when printing its pamphlet.
Furthermore, William Hill, which published its guide in early June, said that FanDuel used the lifted material on the internet “for use on several web pages.”
“These ‘articles’ comprise unauthorized, substantially identical copies of the William Hill Copyrighted Work,” said the lawsuit.
William Hill said that FanDuel even lifted its sports betting glossary.
The bookmaker believes that FanDuel knew exactly what it was doing. “William Hill is informed and believes that based upon the foregoing acts, such infringement has been willful and intentional, and in disregard of and with indifference to the rights of William Hill,” the suit said.
Based upon the allegations, William Hill is seeking statutory damages through a jury trial. William Hill is also asking the federal court to order FanDuel to cease distributing the material while the lawsuit is pending.
“The conduct of FanDuel is causing and, unless enjoined and restrained by this Court, will continue to cause William Hill great and irreparable injury that cannot be fully compensated or measured in money,” said the complaint.
The sportsbook operator is asking the court to account for “any and all profits derived” by FanDuel’s use of the copyrighted work.
According to state figures, Meadowlands/FanDuel won $11.6 million from sports betting through September, close to double the $6.2 million won at Monmouth Park/William Hill. William Hill’s sportsbook at Ocean Resort generated $3 million through September.
Second scandal for FanDuel in New Jersey
In September, FanDuel faced heavy criticism over a pricing error for an in-game NFL bet. Fortunately for the bettors, and the nascent New Jersey sports betting industry, FanDuel Sportsbook honored the wagers. The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement said it was “encouraged by” FanDuel’s moves to remedy the situation.
The William Hill lawsuit didn’t mention the Division, as the copyright case will likely play out through the courts rather than with gaming regulators.
FanDuel has yet to respond to the William Hill lawsuit. An answer to the complaint could be filed in the coming weeks.
The stakes are high
A guide on how to gamble on sporting events might seem like small potatoes, but the New Jersey market is growing fast and getting ahead of the competition is paramount.
New Jersey saw $183.9 million in sports wagers last month, an increase of 92% month-over-month. That’s less than half what Nevada’s mature sports betting market averages in September, but the Garden State’s pace could move it past the Silver State in the years ahead. New Jersey has about three times the population.
While the allegations against FanDuel are confined to New Jersey, William Hill’s lawsuit obviously seeks to prevent a scenario in which the alleged conduct occurs in other sports betting states. Currently, just six states have active sports betting industries.
Nationwide sports betting revenue could grow to $5.2 billion (paywall) by 2023, assuming more than two dozen states have launched the activity.
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