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MAO Gaming Sues Ameristar Casino for Alleged Trademark Theft

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In a legal showdown that could reshape the landscape of blackjack side bets, Mississippi-based MAO Gaming has filed a lawsuit against Penn Entertainment's Ameristar Casino in Black Hawk, Colorado. It alleges that the casino knowingly practiced trademark infringement for years, using its patented STREAK variation of blackjack without permission.

Splitting the Deck

As of December 1, 2001, MAO Gaming secured exclusive rights to the STREAK variation, a side bet on traditional blackjack tables that enables players to wager on the frequency of being dealt blackjack. The card game, a perennial favorite at both Las Vegas and regional casinos, forms the cornerstone of many gambling establishments' offerings, especially in Black Hawk, Colorado's primary gambling hub.

Related: Ameristar Casino Faces Lawsuit Over Alleged Card Counting Incident

MAO Gaming's counsel lodged a complaint in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, claiming that Ameristar Black Hawk knowingly and unlawfully utilized MAO's trademarks to advertise, promote, and profit from the popular STREAK side bet. The lawsuit contends that this unauthorized use persisted unchecked for two years at the Black Hawk casino hotel.

According to legal documents, MAO Gaming argues that each annual renewal contract Penn Entertainment entered into with the gaming supplier explicitly recognized STREAK as the "exclusive property" of MAO. The filing suggests that Penn not only failed to cease the infringement but also willfully profited from it over an extended period.

Highlighting the gravity of the alleged infringement, MAO's attorneys underscored that the Colorado Casino Gaming Commission (CCGC) mandated all gaming operators featuring blackjack side bets to be licensed by MAO. Furthermore, the operators were required to adhere to the patent holder's rules in offering the game.

Actively Violating Patent Controls

MAO Gaming contends that Ameristar Black Hawk, through its contractual agreements, should have been acutely aware that the revenue generated from STREAK hinged solely on procuring a license from MAO. The lawsuit argues that it would be "impossible" for the casino operator and venue not to be aware of this critical requirement, given the nature of their contracts with MAO.

The legal battle is poised to be a landmark case, shaping the future of trademark protection within the gaming industry. As the proceedings unfold in the US District Court for the District of Colorado, industry experts are keenly observing the potential ramifications for other gaming operators offering patented side bets without proper licensing. This could ultimately spill into other sectors of casino specialized casino gambling, leading to similar legal battles.

Neither Penn Entertainment nor Ameristar has responded publicly to the lawsuit.

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