A New Jersey judge has dismissed a private lawsuit brought against the Borgata by six of the players at the controversial Borgata Winter Poker Open, held earlier in the year. The $500 + 60 NLH Big Stack event, which had a guaranteed prize pool of $2 million, was suspended on January 18th with 27 players left and subsequently cancelled following the revelation that counterfeit poker chips had been introduced by Christian Lusardi.
The six plaintiffs, who were among the 27 remaining when the tournament was stopped, had accused the casino of negligence and running the event without proper CCTV surveillance. They also claimed that the Borgata had failed in its duty to keep tabs on the amount of chips in play and to react to reports by the players that some of the chips appeared slightly discolored.
Lusardi, the one-time chip leader from North Carolina, eventually cashed in the event for $6,814 before being arrested after he attempted to flush T2.7 million in poker chips down the toilet of his hotel room at the nearby Harrah’s Resort, causing water to drip down into the rooms of guests on the floor below.
He was charged with theft and rigging a public contest and is still awaiting trial.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge James Isman said in his ruling that the case was dismissed as it had already been scrutinized by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) and the claims “fall squarely within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DGE.”
Last month, the DGE found that the Borgata had not breached any regulations in the running of the tournament. It also ruled on how the prize pool should be redistributed, deciding that 2,143 of the entrants who did not cash (4,824 players started) were entitled to their money back (buy-in plus reg fee). These were players who were playing in the same room at the same time as Lusardi and therefore may have been affected, directly or indirectly, by his tampering with the chips.
The $50,893 in prizes owed to players who busted in the money, meanwhile, would be paid as scheduled, while the 27 players who remained when the tournament was stopped would chop the rest for $19,323 each. The plaintiffs were claiming $33,000 each.
The attorney representing the players, Maurice VerStandig, said that he’s considering an appeal, adding that he sees no reason why the players should not be permitted to pursue their cases through the traditional jury system. He added that the DGE is “closely tied to the entities it regulates, and there’s a distinct concern that when you take the adversarial component out of the civil process, you risk the proverbial lunatics running the asylum.
“The DGE is not equipped to provide the sort of due process that is the hallmark of civil litigation in the state of New Jersey,” said VerStandig. “There’s no jury box in the DGE, to the best of my knowledge. The Borgata has yet to come forward and explain … why it operated a poker tournament in such a shoddy and horrendous fashion. The Borgata botched a poker tournament to an epic degree and it hasn’t cost them so much as a penny.”