There is more to my story - Part One - Exposing the Bad Guys

Posted On: 
13th May 2015

Derek Webb founder of the Campaign for Fairer Gambling and Stop the FOBTs shares his personal story and gambling insights

On New Year's Eve in 1998 I was at home in Britain when I got a telephone call from a reporter for the Las Vegas Sun newspaper, who asked: "How does it feel to be sued by a public corporation?" As I was not aware of the suit I could not make any comment. The journalist was looking for any quote to take out of context and add colour to a corporate PR puff story originated by Progressive Gaming International Corp (PGIC).

The lawsuit claimed that the game I created, Three Card Poker™, was infringing their patents. I decided to sell the game, except in the British Isles, to another public company which was already defending similar litigation against PGIC.

In 2002, we activated a pre-filed countersuit against PGIC, claiming that their litigation against us was a fraudulent sham in an attempt to monopolize the US proprietary casino table game market. In 2007, after a jury trial of several weeks in Jackson, Mississippi, we prevailed and were awarded legal costs and damages, which were trebled as we had proven anti-trust activity by PGIC.

PGIC relied on paid expert witnesses who we were able to expose as charlatans. Their intellectual property "expert" was trapped into having to say that "it was best practice to resubmit incorrect documents as these were a matter of record" - essentially saying that it is OK to repeatedly mislead the US Patent Office, a government body, if you have already done so.

Their financial "expert" had a political and philosophical bias against the anti-trust law itself and had previously represented the tobacco sector as an "expert" witness. He justified his contradictions with his ivory tower status, but had to be recalled so many times that, as we subsequently heard, the jury felt sorry for him - even though they disbelieved him!

PGIC was unable to produce its technical gaming "expert", a plagiarist who claimed to be able to win at gambling but had never paid tax on gambling winnings (which is required in the US). During my several days of testimony I had already destroyed his credibility.

When first activating this suit we had less than a 50% expectation of success, but by the time the jury retired our confidence level had increased to 90%. From the outset we knew that any evidence to be discovered could only support our position. We put together a great team and had the resources to make it happen.

The pro-status quo FOBT advocates in the UK always want to note my alleged "casino interests", but never want to acknowledge my litigation success. They also never want to acknowledge that my understanding of gamblers enabled me to create the most popular casino table game, Three Card Poker™ and most popular side bets 21+3® / Top Three™.

The number of individual proprietary casino table game inventors who have created multi-million dollar assets can be counted on your fingers. The number of individual litigants in US federal anti-trust gambling intellectual property actions generating multi-million dollar values can be counted on your thumbs.

The fascinating aspect of all this is that there are so many parallels with the dynamics of my litigation experience and the Stop the FOBTs campaign. Putting the team together, discovering and collating the evidence, formulating the logical arguments and exposing the so called "experts" feels so familiar. If only we could get our time in front of a jury of our peers, the Campaign would be able to prove its claims regarding FOBT harm and the socio-economic cost.

In the US civil trial the majority of the proofs we needed to provide were to a "balance of probability" standard - meaning above 50%, although we had to provide some proofs to a "clear and convincing" standard, which is nominally above 75%. In respect of FOBT dangers, we should not even need to provide proofs to the balance of probability, as good governance requires using the precautionary principle.  

The precautionary principle means that there does not yet need to be a balance of probability - the suspicion of the dangers alone should be adequate enough to prompt action. One of the favourite tricks of evidence deniers is to say "we need evidence" without offering any reasons to ignore the existing evidence. Sajid Javid and Helen Grant each practiced this trick in their time serving at DCMS. It will be very interesting to see how the new faces at DCMS handle the FOBT harm evidence.