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Former Centrebet CEO loses court claim on Baccarat side-bet game

Sat, Oct 22, 9:31am by Jonathan Zaun

Con Kafataris made millions of dollars as one of Sydney’s most successful rails bookmakers, but the former CEO and Director of Centrebet Group found a game he couldn’t beat in casino side bet invention.

In a ruling rendered by the Full Federal Court in the case of Kafataris v Davis [2016] FCAFC 134, the former bookmaker’s claim to credit as co-inventor of “Card Game with Supplementary Betting Option” was rejected.

The side bet – which created a new method of wagering on the effect of the third card dealt during a hand of baccarat – was the subject of a 2013 application with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The PCT application listed Cory Davis of Alexandria, New South Wales (NSW) as the Applicant and Thomas Rowland of Rose Bay, NSW as the Inventor.

In the application, the side bet concept of wagering on the result of the third card dealt in baccarat was described thusly:

“If the player draws two cards of the same denomination (eg 2 x 2, 2 x KING, 2 x ACE), then the player pair bets will be paid at 11 to 1, irrespective of the final outcome of the game.”

If the banker draws to cards of the same denomination (eg 2 x 2, 2 x 6, 2 x 10), then the banker pair bets will be paid at 11 to 1, irrespective of the final outcome of the game.

If both the player and the banker draw two cards of the same denomination, then both the player and the banker pair bets will be paid at 11 to 1, irrespective of the final outcome of the game.

Pairs do not affect this issuing of third cards when appropriate. This second bet allows patrons to make a more informed decision for investment in the game.”

Although Kafataris readily admits he did not devise the side bet’s structure himself, he claimed in court that Davis and Rowland obtained his services as a casino game odds analyst and gambling industry consultant. During the course of his business with Davis and Rowland, Kafataris contends that he conceived of applying the same third-card betting system to another card game involving two-card starting hands: blackjack. In Kafataris’ estimation, his contribution to the expansion of the third-card betting product from baccarat only to blackjack constituted co-inventorship.

Judges cited sections 15 and 16 of the Patents Act in coming to a conclusion, which state unequivocally:

“Who may be granted a patent? (1) Subject to this Act, a patent for an invention may only be granted to a person who:

(a)    is the inventor; or

(b)    would, on the grant of a patent for the invention, be entitled to have the patent assigned to the person.”

According to the October 5th judgment:

“Mr Kafataris said that over the period between January and March 2013 he “developed a side bet specific to the card game known as blackjack” and that he set out the “specifications of this game” in a document entitled “Blackjack Dealer Bet Games Rules.”

“His Honour accepted this was so (at [206]), but said (at [207]) that it was clear from the email from Mr Kafataris to Mr Davis of 14 March 2013 that he substantially created the Blackjack Dealer Bet Game Rules from the format of the baccarat game rules created by Mr Thomas.”

In rejecting Kafataris’ claim to co-inventorship, the Court recognixed his contribution to enhancing the side bet concept, but found that he played no role in its conceptualixation:

“At the root of the appellants’ failure was the finding that the addition of a further card game ‘did not bring about a change to the invention, rather it merely provided another example.’

“This finding was undoubtedly correct. The work done by Mr Kafataris did not alter the nature of the invention. There is nothing novel about the game of blackjack, nor was there anything novel about the secondary bet option for blackjack, which was an obvious application of the inventive concept.”

The decision marked a different day for the internet bookmaking pioneer who launched his Sports Odds enterprise in the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) in 1995, began accepting online wagers in 1999, and acquired Centrebet from Tabcorp in 2003 before building an empire.

By 2011 the Centrebet brand had been built so successfully that rival Sportingbet acquired it in a AUD$183 million deal. Two years later, U.K.-based William Hill added the combined Sportingbet / Centrebet properties to its portfolio in a AUD$700 million acquisition. The Centrebet brand was then replaced by William Hill throughout the Australian marketplace.

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