Last month, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa settled a scandal involving a $2 million Winter Poker Open tournament. Dubbed “Chipgate,” this tourney was compromised when Christian Lusardi introduced counterfeit chips into play. After the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) concluded their investigation on this matter, the Borgata made the following concessions to players:
- 2,143 players who did not finish within the top 450 money positions each received $560. It was concluded that all of these players were at Lusardi’s table at one point and may have been affected by his actions.
- The final 27 players were each awarded $19,323. These were the last remaining entrants when Borgata officials discovered the fake chips.
- Players who finished 28th to 450th already got their money ($892,690), so they received no additional compensation.
- The DGE determined that 2,218 non-money finishing entrants were not affected by Lusardi, so they didn’t get any compensation.
Borgata Returns Prize Pool and Fees to Affected Players
The Borgata returned the remaining prize pool ($1,433,145) and tournament fees ($288,660) to players affected by the scandal. Nevertheless, this hasn’t halted legal action by those who still aren’t satisfied with the Borgata’s resolution. Last February, Jacob Musterel filed a class-action lawsuit that seeks refunds for every player’s buy-in as well as “incidental damages” like travel costs.
With Musterel’s lawsuit still in the works, six more players have stepped forward with legal action. The six in question – Duane Haughton, Christopher Korres, Cuong Phung, Michael Sneideman, Cuong Tran and Alvin Vatanavan – were among the 27 still players alive when counterfeit chips were discovered.
Plaintiffs Each Seeking $33,756 in Damages
In paying a total of $1,200,080 to 2,143 players who didn’t cash in the Winter Poker Open, the Borgata had to shift some money away from the last 27 players. This being said, the six plaintiffs argue that if the remaining prize pool were chopped, all 27 players would’ve received $53,079 – not the aforementioned $19,323 amount that they got. So the six players each want an additional $33,756 to make up the difference.
The plaintiffs’ complaint alleges that the Borgata were negligent in supervising the tournament, and they breached contract by not paying the last 27 players an equal share of the remaining prize money.
Are These Players in the Right?
On paper, the six tournament entrants definitely have a case because, if the prize pool was chopped fairly, they would’ve gotten a lot more money. But as we’ve discussed in the past, Lusardi’s cheating actions affected everybody involed with the tourney – from the Borgata to the players. That said, the Borgata could be considered just as big of victims as the actual players.
The argument from both Musterel and the more recent six players has been that the casino didn’t do a good job of watching over the tournament. But in the end, they uncovered the scandal before the event ended, didn’t try to sweep it under the rug, and took the appropriate action. Moreover, the DGE even stated that the Borgata didn’t have to compensate any non-money finishers.
Perhaps the courts will see things differently, however, but it seems like the Borgata did a pretty good job in settling this matter.