Prague Court Issues Preliminary Ruling for Tsoukernik
Leon Tsoukernik decided to take on Facebook, arguably one of the largest social media companies in the world. It seemed like an overwhelming task, especially considering that Facebook can likely afford any legal team it desires. But the owner of King’s Casino did have a solid case.
A Prague court agreed and ruled for Tsoukernik, issuing a preliminary injunction aimed at forcing Facebook to remove the ads in question.
A Case Refresher
As so many casinos around the world, King’s Casino had shut its doors for months upon months during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 and early 2021. It was a tough time for casino owners and staff, even players.
Someone took advantage of Tsoukernik’s casino closures to use his brand and likeness to launch an online casino. Further, that casino advertised on Facebook.
They called it King’s Casino Online and advertised it as such: “The best Czech casino is now online!” Tsoukernik did everything possible to shut it down. He was able to trace the company to an American, but he was unable to find a name behind the fraudulent site. But as the site gained traction and advertised on a prominent platform like Facebook, the urgency of shutting down the site intensified. At that time, Tsoukernik spoke to a Czech news outlet about it: “It is not possible to take a foreign brand and attract money from it. It also hurts us, because if they don’t return the money, you will think that King’s Casino did not return it to them.” (via Google translation)
Facebook ignored numerous attempts from Tsoukernik to demand the removal of the online casino ads.
In April 2021, Tsoukernik sued Facebook in a regional Prague court for an injunction to force the company to remove the ads. He also requested financial damages to the tune of half a billion Czech koruna, which translated to approximately $23.4M.
📰 Leon Tsoukernik sues Facebook!
He takes legal action against app fraud. He is suing Facebook for half a billion Czech crowns (about $23,000,000 US) for spreading misleading advertising of a casino app abusing the name of King's.https://t.co/57yJwhcW4v
— King's Resort (@PokerroomKings) April 16, 2021
First Judgments for Tsoukernik
King’s Casino posted an update last week on the case. It said that the court ruled in Tsoukernik’s favor for jurisdiction. This meant that the case may proceed in the Czech court system, not forced to file in Ireland, which is the home of Facebook’s headquarters.
Further, the court found that the fraudulent ads on Facebook were illegal if only for the lack of a responsible gambling notice. That alone should have prohibited Facebook from publishing the ads.
Czech newspaper Hospodářské noviny provided more detail, reporting that the Prague Municipal Court issued a preliminary injunction against Facebook. The social media platform must remove all advertisements relating to King’s Casino until the judge rules on the matter in its entirety. Whether Facebook complies or not, it allows Tsoukernik to increase the amount he seeks in damages, especially in the case of noncompliance.
The court’s ruling also noted that the advertisements used the Czech flag but not the legally-required disclaimers regarding underaged gambling or irresponsible gambling. The judge wrote, “This is clear evidence that the sponsor of the misleading advertisements does not have the necessary permission to operate gambling.”
For Tsoukernik, the waiting process begins. The court typically offers 15 days for an appeal on the decision, but the location of the company in Ireland extends that window. The delivery of the documents to Facebook may take as long as a month. And as of August 4, the court had not received a response from Facebook.
Attorney Tomáš Osička, representing Tsoukernik, said that he has a “high degree of probability” of proving his claim in court as it proceeds.
Meanwhile, there appears to be no talks of a settlement, as Tsoukernik never received any responses to his inquiries from Facebook. His lawyer had no success, either. “We don’t even have anyone to communicate with; there are no contacts for the company’s management on the website,” said Osička told Hospodářské noviny. “We didn’t even talk about it with the client.”
There is no estimated timeline for the case, as they now simply await a response from Facebook. But if Facebook does not respond, the Prague court will move forward with or without representation from the social media giant.
Tsoukernik and his attorney remain frustrated by the lack of any reply whatsoever from Facebook, but they are confident about their case.
První rozhodnutí ve sporu "krále českého pokeru" s Facebookem. Facebook musí zabránit zobrazování falešných reklam, které používají fotky King's Casina a jeho ochranné známky. https://t.co/kV6Bj2hJns prostřednictvím @hospodarky @kriusenko
— Milan Mikulka (@McQuilkey) August 4, 2021