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GSN in legal dispute over blackjack format

US company Ultimate Blackjack Tour (UBT), creator of the TV gambling format of the same name that goes to air on CBS this fall, has filed a lawsuit against cable channel GSN over alleged format theft.

The long list of allegations in the lawsuit, filed in the LA Supreme Court on Tuesday, includes breach of implied contract, breach of confidence, unfair competition and unjust enrichment in connection with GSN’s show, World Series of Blackjack.

UBT, founded by a group of gaming and entertainment experts, is demanding a permanent injunction restraining GSN from airing its show in its current format, as well as a request for monetary damages.

The company claims it created a “fast-paced and novel” format for a blackjack tournament that is suited to TV programming, known as ‘elimination blackjack’, which it has registered with the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

The company contends that it presented its format to GSN during two meetings in 2005, on a confidential basis, and invited GSN to partner with UBT on a television programme based on UBT’s ideas.

According to UBT, though GSN declined to work with the company, the Sony-backed cable channel “misappropriated” its ideas for making blackjack more dramatic and incorporated them into World Series of Blackjack.

The suit comes as CBS gives a two-season commitment to Ultimate Blackjack Tour, which is due to start airing in CBS Sports’ Saturday afternoon block from September 16. It also marks a return to the contentious issue of format theft that plagued Hollywood two years ago, in the wake of the Wife Swap/Trading Spouses and Supernanny/Nanny 911 rows.

In other news, GSN has renewed its cash poker series, High Stakes Poker, for a third season. The current season, which airs at 21.00, was taped at the Palms Casino in Las Vegas, but the location of the third series has not yet been confirmed.

GSN claims the format is the first true cash game of poker on television, with a US$100,000 minimum buy-in leading to major televised cash gains and losses.

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