Gaming Device Co. Sues Eckert Seamans Over Parx Casino Representation | The Legal Intelligencer
Thursday 20th February 2020
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An ex-client of Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, gaming company Pace-O-Matic, is suing the firm over an alleged conflict for representing a casino just outside Philadelphia in an ongoing fight over the legality of Pace-O-Matic games in Pennsylvania.
Pace-O-Matic alleged that even as its lawyers at Eckert Seamans defended the company's devices on the grounds that they are legal games of skill, the firm was simultaneously arguing on behalf of Parx Casino that the same games should be outlawed as illegal gambling devices.
When Pace-O-Matic confronted the law firm about that conflict, the complaint said, "Eckert further breached the duty of undivided loyalty owed to POM by dropping POM like the proverbial 'hot potato' in favor of its more lucrative client relationship with Parx Casino."
In a complaint filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, the gaming company argued that Eckert Seamans should be enjoined from representing Parx in any matters adverse to Pace-O-Matic.
According to the complaint, Eckert Seamans represented Pace-O-Matic in various matters related to its games, including litigation and government relations strategies. Their relationship dates back to 2011, the complaint said, and included matters in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
"As counsel for POM and its affiliates, Eckert secured legal and governmental opinions attesting that POM's products are games of skill and not gambling devices," the complaint said, noting that the firm used those arguments in June 2019 in Virginia state court.
But in a Bucks County, Pennsylvania, court action in December 2019, the complaint said, Eckert Seamans argued on behalf of Parx "that POM manufactures 'illegal slot machines' and 'deceptively markets these games as "legal" when, in fact, they are not.'"
Pace-O-Matic alleged that just a few days before that argument, the company had a conference call with Eckert Seamans about Pennsylvania legal matters affecting it.
And in January of this year, the complaint alleged, Eckert Seamans' gaming practice co-chair sent letters on behalf of Parx to various municipalities in Pennsylvania which referred to Pace-O-Matic devices as "'illegal slot machines.'" Several casinos with Pennsylvania operations are arguing that under a November 2019 Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court opinion, "skill games" like the ones Pace-O-Matic makes should not be considered legal in the state.
Pace-O-Matic alleged that its existence is threatened by Eckert Seamans' efforts on behalf of Parx to have its machines and others like it designated as illegal gambling.
When the company requested that Eckert Seamans withdraw from representing Parx, the law firm refused, according to the complaint.
Pace-O-Matic is seeking a declaration that Eckert Seamans breached its duty, and wants the firm to disgorge all legal fees it paid. It is also seeking punitive damages.
Erik Anderson, Daniel Brier and Donna Walsh of Myers Brier & Kelly are representing Pace-O-Matic. Eckert Seamans does not yet have an attorney listed for the case.
Spokespeople for Eckert Seamans did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday.