Borgata Chipgate Class Action: Players Lose Appeal

BorgataPlayers attempting to recover losses from the opening event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Open have lost their appeal against the Borgata Casino and NJDGE.

In January 2014, the $2 million guaranteed opening event of the Borgata Winter Open was suspended with just 27 players remaining when it was discovered that Christian Lusardi had introduced 800,000 worth of counterfeit chips into play during Day 1B.

Lusardi was arrested and charged with counterfeiting, and also with criminal mischief after he tried to flush remaining counterfeit chips down the toilet of his hotel room. In October last year, Lusardi was sentenced to five years for his role in the “Chipgate” scandal.

Players Start Legal Case against Borgata

An investigation into the fraud by the Borgata Casino and New Jersey Department of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE) resulted in non-cashing players having their buy-ins returned if it was considered they had been impacted by Lusardi´s cheating. The remaining 27 players left in the tournament had the remaining prize money equally distributed between them.

Not everybody was happy with the outcome. A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of New Jersey player Jacob Musterel alleged that the Casino had allowed a rigged gaming event to take place by failing to have adequate security in place and ignoring players´ suspicions about “off-colour” counterfeit chips at an early stage of the event.

Musterel claimed that he and the other 4,284 players that had entered the tournament were entitled not only to a refund of their $560 buy-ins, but also compensation for their travel expenses and hotel accommodation. It was also claimed that the failure of the Borgata to adequately police the event had deprived the players of the opportunity of a big win.

Bruce LiCausi – the attorney representing Musterel et al – commented at the time that this was the cleanest claims we´ve had, adding that players had attended the Borgata Winter Open expecting a carefully supervised event. However, LiCausi´s optimism was dented earlier this year when Marina District Finance Co. Inc. – the Borgata´s owners – won a summary judgement to dismiss the case.

Appeal against Summary Judgement Goes Pear-Shaped

The players appealed the summary judgement on the grounds that Lusardi´s inflated stack had given him a better opportunity to eliminate players. They claimed that this leverage had a ripple event throughout the whole tournament. An appeal was also lodged against the dismissal of a civil claim against the NJDGE for negligently upholding the Borgata´s distribution of the prize money.

Both appeals were consolidated into one case and heard by the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court on Monday. At the end of the hearing, Judges Jack Sabatino, Allison Accurso and Amy O’Connor found that the Borgata Casino and NJDGE had done everything possible to provide a fair and abrupt resolution to a regrettable event.

The panel of judges upheld the dismissal of the class action against the Borgata Casino and the civil action against the NJDGE. The judges noted that every player potentially affected by Lusardi´s cheating had already got their money back, that the Borgata had acted fairly in its distribution of the prize money and that the NJDGE´s endorsement of the Casino´s actions was appropriate. With regard to the loss of opportunity for a big win, the judges said:

Because poker is a game of chance, none of these plaintiffs could predict or quantify his chances of winning in a meaningful and reliable way. There is simply no fairly calculable award that would put these plaintiffs in as good a position as if performance had been rendered, and thus no basis for an award of compensatory damages.