Professional poker player and runner-up in the 2016 World Series of Poker, Gordon Vayo has filed a lawsuit against Pokerstars. He alleges the Canadian online poker giant has engaged in a “pattern of fraudulent and unlawful conduct” after not paying him out almost $700,000 in winnings from his first-place finish in a 2017 Pokerstars “SCOOP” tournament.
Pokerstars is a Canadian company and, after 2011, there have been very strict rules about where players can play to be eligible to compete on their site. Vayo’s lawsuit says they are using these rules to deny winners payment. “After a United States citizen or resident wins a significant amount of money on Pokerstars, Defendant 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 then 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 any payments due,” says the lawsuit.
“In this way Defendant takes the money of Plaintiff and other users of the Pokerstars.com site with impunity, while depriving the same users of their largest winnings if and when they occur.” Vayo’s lawyer has even hinted there may be grounds for a class-action lawsuit. The suit cites another incident with an unnamed player winning approximately $140,000 on Pokerstars sometime in 2016. Pokerstars froze the account for a year before finally cashing out the prize money after a location investigation was completed.
Voya has admitted to using a virtual private network or VPN for internet activity but that he has never used it while playing in Pokerstars tournaments. Although he is based out of Los Angeles, Voya even maintains a part-time residence in Ottawa to be eligible to play Pokerstars tournaments. And here is where the confusion begins. Pokerstars believes Voya’s VPN is what makes him ineligible while Voya says Pokerstars can’t prove he wasn’t in Canada when playing the SCOOP tournament.
The suit states Voya was approved to play on the site despite not being a permanent resident of Canada and he was allowed to play for several years. Even after he won the SCOOP tournament, he kept his winnings in his account on the site and continued to play regularly for months afterward. Voya says Pokerstars froze the account on July 25, 2017, only after he tried to cash out saying they needed retroactive proof he was in Canada when he won the tournament. And, despite never receiving payment, Vayo says Pokerstars has publicly promoted his win. Using his name to promote their tournaments.
Pokerstars has declined any comment on the situation claiming there is an investigation in progress. However, it may be important to note the lawsuit claims Pokerstars told Vayo their investigation had ended and that he would not be able to cash out. It was the end of their investigation which spurred him to legal action. Vayo is seeking damages, attorney’s fees, and his tournament winnings.
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