SAN DIEGO (CN) - An attorney representing racehorse owners' broadcast rights claims in court that he got death threats after horse-wagering companies spread lies about him, broadcast his telephone number and encouraged gamblers to "hostilely voice their frustrations" about him.
Drew J. Couto sued ODS Technologies dba TVG Network, Betfair US LLC, three other business and two people, in Superior Court.
Couto, an attorney in San Diego County, claims the defendants intentionally interfered with his contract with a competitor in the horse track betting business.
TVG touts itself on its website as the "#1 horse wagering website and horse racing television network in the USA with over 150 tracks worldwide."
The animosity between Couto and TVG dates back to 1999, when Couto was representing the interests of Thoroughbred racehorse owners in negotiating broadcast rights and fees for races in California, and pari-mutuel wagering.
Throughout the years, TVG and the other betting companies publicly broadcast false and misleading statements about Couto and his role in the negotiations, he says in the complaint.
"On more than one occasion, said defendants intentionally and maliciously utilized their broadcast assets to scroll plaintiff's personal and professional telephone numbers across TVG broadcasts and programming, and to encourage and incite viewers and gamblers to hostilely voice their frustrations to plaintiff for actions he was required to take as an employee of the entity required by State law to fulfill such responsibilities," Couto says in the lawsuit.
"As the direct and foreseeable result of defendants actions in broadcasting/scrolling plaintiff's telephone numbers and inciting viewers, several death threats were directed at plaintiff, yet said defendants continued to undertake such actions until directed by the then Chairman of the CHRB [California Horse Racing Board] to cease such broadcasts."
Couto claims that in 2011 he began representing one of TVG's and Betfair's leading competitors after a CHRB invitation to participate in developing of Exchange Wagering regulations.
During the rulemaking process, Couto submitted three letters on behalf of his client indicating that TVG, Betfair and the CHRB were trying to adopt underground regulations to economically benefit TVG and the other defendants, and circumvent state law, Couto says in the complaint.
Couto says in the lawsuit that his efforts to have the CHRB follow legal procedures led to a 17-page opinion in which the California Office of Administrative Law disapproved of the Exchange Wagering regulations crafted by defendants TVG and Betfair, and submitted by the CHRB.
In retaliation, he claims, TVG and Betfair interfered in his representation of European Wagering Services (EWS). Couto entered into a contract with EWS in 2012 to provide legal and strategic consulting services and represent its interests before the CHRB, he says in the complaint.
The CEO of EWS sent CHRB staff members an email notifying them that Couto had been retained as counsel. CHRB Executive Director Kirk Breed then notified defendant John Hindman, counsel for TVG and Betfair, of Couto's arrangement with EWS.
Over the next seven-plus weeks, Hindman and other TVG representatives "advised EWS that if EWS continued to be represented by plaintiff, not only would TVG refuse to do business with EWS, but that the CHRB would not look favorably on the arrangement, making it extremely difficult if not impossible for EWS to obtain either a track or advance deposit wagering ('ADW') operator's license in California and elsewhere," Couto says in the complaint.
TVG reps then falsely told EWS that Couto "was not liked or respected within the industry, including by CHRB Commissioners and staff, racetracks, and horsemen, which made him an ineffective legal advocate and consultant for EWS," according to the complaint.
It continues: "Defendants represented that were it to terminate its contract with plaintiff, defendants would then support and assist EWS in securing its licenses from the CHRB, as well as the right to facilitate ADW from host tracks and horseman around the country, and in particular within California."
As a result of these threats, EWS broke its contract with him, Couto claims.
He seeks compensatory and punitive damages for breach of contract, intentional interference with contractual relations, intentional interference with prospective economic relations, and negligent interference with prospective economic relations.
He is represented by Michael W. Battin with Navigato & Battin.
TVG did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Here are the defendants: ODS Technologies LP dba TVG Network, Betfair US LLC,
ODS Holdings LLC, TSE US Holdings LLC, Betfair Group plc, John Hindman, and Stephen Burn. All the LLCs are Delaware LLCs; Betfair Group plc is British.