PlayUp Names Dennis Drazin US Chairman as Suit Against Ex-CEO Mintas Continues
PlayUp announced late Tuesday evening that Monmouth Park Chairman and CEO Dennis Drazin has been named PlayUp USA’s chairman. The move is effective immediately as the Australian-based gaming company takes legal action against the former CEO of its American division.
Drazin, whom the company called a “longstanding gaming industry icon,” will work with PlayUp’s corporate leadership in securing new market access agreements in states where sports betting and iGaming are legal. He was named to the company’s board of directors a year ago.
Drazin said in the Tuesday night release he’s been excited to see PlayUp grow over the past few months.
I’m extremely encouraged by the strong performance of the business, particularly within New Jersey where we have made substantial progress in a short period of time amongst what may be the most competitive market in the world,” Drazin said.
As chairman and CEO of New Jersey-based Monmouth Park, Drazin played a key role in helping that state legalize sports betting, a move that led to the US Supreme Court overturning PASPA in May 2018. Over the last two years, he’s been leading the push to bring fixed-odds horse racing to New Jersey in an effort to bring new bettors to the sport.
It’s unclear for now how or if Drazin’s new role will impact his work at Monmouth Park. He did not respond immediately to a message sent Tuesday night for additional comment.
PlayUp currently operates sports betting apps in Colorado and New Jersey. It also has market access agreements for sports betting skins in Indiana and Iowa and iGaming rights in Iowa, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Lawsuit Filed Against Former CEO
On Nov. 30, PlayUp filed a lawsuit in US District Court in Nevada against its US division CEO, Dr. Laila Mintas, whose employment contract ended that same day. The lawsuit stated Mintas did not adhere to confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions in her contract. That included a six-month period upon completion prohibiting her from engaging or participating “in any manner or fashion in an employment, business, or other activity competitive with PlayUp.”
According to the suit, as both sides negotiated a new contract, Mintas wanted her annual salary doubled to $1 million and her share of company stock increased to 15 percent. She also requested the termination of PlayUp Global CEO Matthew Simic and that she become the new global CEO.
After PlayUp refused, the lawsuit claims that Mintas contacted Sam Bankman-Fried, founder and CEO of cryptocurrency exchange FTX. FTX had been in negotiations to acquire PlayUp, but after Mintas told him about “a conflict within management,” those discussions stopped. The suit also claims she threatened to contact gaming regulators and customers to injure the company and cause it to go bankrupt.
US District Judge Gloria Navarro granted a temporary restraining order barring Mintas from breaking the confidentiality and non-disparagement provisions of her contract.
In statements to SBC Americas and Legal Sports Report Tuesday, Mintas denied trying to sabotage PlayUp, of which she’s still a shareholder. She added her lawyers were working on a response to the suit.
In Tuesday’s statement, PlayUp said that suing Mintas was “undesirable” but also “necessary” to protect the company’s interests.
“PlayUp refutes the recent publications made by Laila Mintas with respect to the proceedings,” the statement said, adding that it would not comment further on the litigation.
PlayUp Seeks Alternate Form of Serving Mintas
The case has taken some unusual turns in the two weeks since it was filed. PlayUp notified Navarro that it cannot serve Mintas with the lawsuit. An attempt to serve her at her Las Vegas home led to the discovery that she was reportedly selling the house, with a home inspector telling the plaintiffs Mintas was apparently moving to the Bahamas. An attempt by PlayUp’s lawyers to reach Mintas via email was also unsuccessful.
As a result of that, Navarro last week extended the restraining order against Mintas from Thursday to Jan. 3.
As of Tuesday, PlayUp’s attorneys still have not had a chance to serve Mintas with the suit. In a motion filed Tuesday seeking an alternate way of serving Mintas, an attorney for PlayUp told the court that Mintas appeared in an Australian court earlier that day. In that appearance, she gave them a personal email to receive legal notices. PlayUp’s attorneys have asked for the ability to serve Mintas in that fashion.
For now, Navarro has set a hearing for Jan. 3 to determine if the temporary restraining order would become a permanent injunction that would force Mintas to not disparage PlayUp for the duration of the court case.
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