(Don’t) Burn After Reading, PlayUp Takes Legal Beating

Australian online betting operator PlayUp has suffered a major setback in its attempt to muzzle its former US Chief Executive Dr Laila Mintas.

A US District Court in Nevada has just denied PlayUp’s emergency motion for a continuation of its preliminary injunction against Mintas, who, it’s been reported, threatened “to burn [the company] to the ground” when a dispute over remuneration erupted into all-out warfare between the parties.

Mintas led PlayUp’s successful 2019 assault on the burgeoning US sports betting market, with the Aussie operator now running sportsbook, racebook, fantasy sports and Esports verticals in Colorado and New Jersey states and iGaming entries also lined up for Iowa and Pennsylvania.

According to insider reports, Mintas wanted just reward for her sterling efforts. But PlayUp balked at her demands for more shares and a bigger pay packet.

Instead PlayUp accused Mintas of “breach of contract” and claimed that she had deliberately torpedoed the company’s recent US$450 million bid (£327m/€392.5m) to acquire Bahamas-based crypto-currency exchange FTX.

And they claimed, in a headline that went around the world of gaming, that Mintas has “threatened to burn PlayUp to the ground”.

But at the Nevada court session last week Judge Gloria Navarro ruled that PlayUp had failed to prove its allegations against Mintas.

There was no evidence, ruled the judge, that Mintas had ever threatened such inflammatory action. And she removed the temporary restraining order imposed on the defendant last month, December.

If anything, said Judge Navarro, citing evidence submitted in Mintas’ defence, it was probably over-reach by PlayUp Group CEO Daniel Simic that had sunk the FTX deal.

Private Payola:

Simic tried to strong arm FTX to buy a PlayUp vertical called PlayChip, under separate US$105 million tender (£76.5m/€91.6m), after they’d agreed the US$450m merger. And Simic had also attempted to receive a US$25 million pay-off for himself (£18.2m/€21.8m), it was counter-alleged in court.

“I think it’s clear that Dr Mintas has now successfully demonstrated that it was just as likely or more likely that the actions of Daniel Simic are the ones that caused the negotiations [with FTX] to cease irreparably,” said Judge Navarro in her ruling.

“In my mind Dr Mintas was exercising her executive responsibility [and] she was turned into the scapegoat.”

Regarding the alleged “burn PlayUp to the ground” threat, the judge said, after reviewing evidence, she now doubted “whether the statement was even made”.

Mintas has now filed a counter-claim for damages in excess of US$75,000 (£54,660/€65,420) from her former employer.

She further accuses PlayUp of defamation and “abuse of process” for deliberately omitting key information when filing for the temporary restraining order.

In addition, she also claims the operator caused “irreparable harm to her reputation, loss of income, devaluation of her shares, among other damages”.

PlayUp, she argued in court, is “guilty of oppression, fraud and malice”.

No doubt she could add, with some conviction, that she’s also been a victim of bad old-fashioned sexism.

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