Borgata Ordered to Repay Players in Poker Tournament Cheating Case

Atlantic City’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa has been ordered by state regulators to refund the $500 buy-in to more than 2,000 players in a January poker tournament that was marred by an alleged counterfeit chip cheating plot. The state’s investigation, however, found that the casino did monitor the tournament properly and was not at fault.

About half the players in Atlantic City’s Borgata Winter Poker Open’s first event will receive refunds from the casino for their buy-in and tournaments fees as a result of a state investigation into a counterfeit chip cheating plot that marred the tournament.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement has ruled that Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa must refund the tournament’s $500 buy-in to 2,143 players whose play may have been affected by the introduction of counterfeit chips into the tournament.

The DGE’s ruling allows for about $1.4 million in prize money and refunds to be distributed to players who entered the January contest. The investigation found that Borgata properly monitored the tournament and was not at fault.

The DGE did not require Borgata to return tournament fees of about $282,000–$60 per player—but the casino has elected to do so anyway according to a press statement from the casino.

The tournament was suspended in January after the fake chips were discovered in play. Christian Lusardi, 42, of Fayetteville North Carolina, was later charged with theft by deception for slipping the chips into the tournament and with rigging a public contest.

The plot was discovered after Lusardi allegedly flushed more fake chips down a toilet at neighboring casino Harrah’s Atlantic City. The chips clogged plumbing at the casino hotel and were found by casino staff, leading to an investigation by New Jersey State Police and the DGE.

The 2,143 players to get refunds did not finish in the top 450 of the tournament and played at the same venue as Lusardi.

According to Borgata, another 2,143 participants could not have come into contact with Lusardi’s chips and therefore will not receive refunds. Due to the size of the tournament, the casino split play into three separate venues on the property.

“Based on our documents and assessments, we know exactly what rooms Christian Lusardi played in. Therefore, we can determine where he may have unlawfully entered the chips into play,” Borgata Senior Vice President Joe Lupo said in a press statement.

The casino also has to pay more than $19,323 to each of the top 27 finishers in the tournament, who were still competing when play was suspended.

Entrants who finished between 28th and 450th in the tournament have already received prize money and will not receive any further disbursements, the casino said. A small amount of players had not collected their winnings when the tournament was frozen and will now be paid.

For the Borgata Spring Poker Open this month, Borgata introduced new high-tech chips designed to foil counterfeiting attempts.

Still, the scandal could lead to regulatory charges in New Jersey.

 “The division is engaged in an industry-wide comprehensive review of all the existing tournament standards and those related to future tournament events,” DGE spokeswoman Kerry Langan said in a statement.

The ruling ends the DGE’s investigation into the tournament, but Lusardi’s criminal case remains open.