University sued after campus poker tournament canceled

By Michael N. Westley The Salt Lake Tribune

Members of the Big City Poker Club filed a civil suit in 3rd District Court against the University of Utah on Tuesday after students and school officials withdrew their support for hosting a for-profit poker tournament, scheduled on campus this week.

The suit claims the university breached its contract with the poker club by canceling the tournament at the last minute.

Members of Big City Poker, a Utah company, began negotiations with the university for the tournament more than five months ago.

The tournament, which would cost players $20 each, was expected to draw as many as 5,000 participants to the U.'s Olpin Student Union Building, according to court documents. Players would not compete for cash, but rather prizes including iPods and a one-semester scholarship.

The poker group was contacted Feb. 16 by university officials who said that "the tournament could not be held, and would need to be canceled, or changed to a different venue off the university campus and disassociated in any way with the university," according to the suit.

The decision to cancel came after the sponsoring agency, the Associated Students of the University of Utah, withdrew its support, said school spokesman Fred Esplin.

"There were a number of people, myself included, who thought the idea of a commercial poker game on campus was a pretty bad idea," he said.

School attorneys say there is no binding contract between the poker club and the university, Esplin said.

Unspecified financial damages are sought.

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