Class Action Lawsuit Filed In Borgata “Chipgate” Scandal
After more than a month without a decision on the event, a class action lawsuit has been filed by poker players from Event #1 of the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open against the casino alleging fraud, negligence and improper supervision of the tournament.
According to Jennifer Bogdan of the Press of Atlantic City, Egg Harbor, NJ, resident Jacob Musterel filed the class action suit on behalf of the more than 4000 players who participated in the tournament back in mid-January. Musterel, one of 27 players that were remaining in the tournament when it was suspended, is looking to have all players’ money refunded to them and reimbursement for any incidental damages (travel expenses, potentially hotel bills, etc.) that they may have incurred.
Musterel’s attorney, Bruce LiCausi, seems to have put together a decent class action case for the New Jersey courts to look at. LiCausi alleges that the Borgata had inadequate staff and security for the conduct of the tournament and, perhaps more damning, that the Borgata tournament officials ignored player comments about the counterfeit chips as the tournament was in progress. Finally, the document alleges that Borgata officials didn’t conduct a chip count on a regular basis, stating that they “acted negligently in permitting an utterly rigged gaming event to occur at their casino.”
“In my 31 years in practice, I have to say this is one of the cleanest claims we’ve had,” LiCausi said to Bogdan about the class action suit. “Borgata holds itself as a respected provider of poker tournaments. They might say this is a learning experience for them, and while that’s laudable, it’s at the expense of the thousands who traveled to Atlantic City and entered this tournament under the expectation that it would be run properly.”
The target of the litigation is keeping silent on the issue of the tournament and the resulting lawsuit. Bogdan could elicit no comment from Borgata spokesman Brian Brennan (he referred her to the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement) and DGE spokeswoman Kerry Langan stated that the investigation is still ongoing. As this occurs, an order is still in place for the remaining prize pool from the tournament to be held in escrow and the 27 players remaining in the tournament left in limbo.
The tournament was expected to be a huge kickoff for what is one of the biggest poker events held at the Borgata. The $500 (plus $60 juice) buy in tournament guaranteed a prize pool of $2 million and the players flocked to the event. More than 4000 people put up their entry fee but, following the completion of the multiple Day Ones on the schedule, circumstances prevented the tournament from reaching its conclusion.
Acting on a tip from another Atlantic City casino, Borgata officials discovered that 800,000 in counterfeit chips had been introduced into the tournament. After consultation with the DGE and other state gaming officials, the Borgata decided to cancel the remainder of the tournament, leaving the remaining prize pool (approximately 400 players had already received their reward for cashing in the tournament) and the 27 players left in the tournament to wonder when – or if – they would ever finish the tournament.
Casino officials and law enforcement continued to investigate the case and allege that a North Carolina man, Christian Lusardi, introduced those chips into the tournament and may have had plans to use more. One of the early chip leaders in the tournament (and a player who was eliminated outside of the final 27 for a four figure payday), Lusardi was arrested on January 24 at a hotel in Atlantic City after his previous accommodations at Harrah’s were found to be the source of a plumbing leak at the facility. That leak, caused by 2.7 million in counterfeit Borgata tournament poker chips that Lusardi allegedly flushed down the commode, led Harrah’s officials to contact the Borgata to warn them about the introduction of other counterfeits.
According to Bogdan, the investigation continues to examine other angles, such as whether Lusardi had any accomplices in the scheme. The class action lawsuit, however, may speed up that investigation so that there is some closure for the players in the tournament.
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