Borgata Sued For Counterfeit Chip Poker Scandal

A class-action lawsuit representing players has been filed against the Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa charging the casino improperly supervised the opening tournament of last month’s Borgata Winter Poker Open, which was suspended after counterfeit chips were found in play. More than 4,000 players entered the tournament, but play was suspended with only 27 players left in the field. The suit seeks restitution for all players.

Atlantic City’s Borgata Casino Hotel & Spa has been hit with a class-action lawsuit charging that the casino improperly supervised a major poker tournament, which was suspended after counterfeit chips were found to be in play.

The lawsuit seeks restitution for more than 4,000 players that entered the tournament including buy-in fees and incidental costs such as travel expenses.

The tournament was the opening tournament event of Borgata’s Winter Poker Open in January, one of the casino’s largest poker events of the year. The $500 buy-in tournament—plus $60 in tournament fees—met a $2 million prize-pool guarantee by attracting better than 4,000 players.

However, more than 800,000 in counterfeit tournament chips were discovered in play and the tournament was suspended with only 27 players remaining in contention. Tournament chips only have value within the tournament and cannot be redeemed for cash.

The lawsuit is led by Egg Harbor Township resident Jacob Musterel on behalf of all the players in the event, reports the Press of Atlantic City.

Christian Lusardi, of Fayetteville, N.C., was arrested in January and charged with introducing the fake chips. He was found in an Atlantic City motel after allegedly attempting to flush counterfeit chips totaling 2.7 million down a toilet at Harrah’s Casino Resort. The chips were then found by Harrah’s staff after guests complained of leaks in the hotel’s plumbing.

The investigation into the counterfeit scam remains open and the remaining prize money in the tournament has been frozen. A state Division of Gaming Enforcement suspension of the tournament remains in force, DGE officials said.

The lawsuit filed in Atlantic County New Jersey Superior Court alleges fraud and negligence on the part of Borgata and accuses the casino of failing to properly supervise the event, the Press reports. The suit seeks refunds of all buy-in money and entry fees as well as reimbursement for incidental damages, such as travel costs.

“In my 31 years in practice, I have to say this is one of the cleanest claims we’ve had,” Bruce LiCausi, Musterel’s attorney told the Press. “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.”

Borgata officials would not comment on the suit.

The lawsuit also alleges that Borgata had insufficient security and supervision for the tournament. The suit also states that several players noticed the counterfeit chips during the tournament and informed Borgata’s staff, yet the tournament continued. It also faults Borgata for not making regular chip counts and charges that the casino “acted negligently in permitting an utterly rigged gaming event to occur at their casino.”

Police are apparently still investigating whether Lusardi acted alone in the counterfeit chip scheme.

According to law enforcement documents obtained by the Press from another pending case against Lusardi—involving bootleg DVDs—Lusardi made the fake chips with spray paint and shipped them to Harrah’s Resort in Atlantic City where he was staying.

Lusardi, 42, also had received packages from Hong Kong that were described as “plastic chips” and hid the counterfeit chips in Borgata bathrooms. Once he believed the casino found out about the chips, he panicked and flushed those that remained, he told authorities.

Officials, however, have said Borgata officials only became aware of the counterfeit chips after being notified by Harrah’s of the flushed chips.