A lawsuit over fake chips that spoiled the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open has been dismissed by a state judge.
In May, six men sued Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, accusing the casino of negligently running the 4,800-player tournament without proper video surveillance. They also said Borgata failed to properly inventory the chips in play and promptly act on players’ reports to dealers that certain chips looked discolored. They said they were owed $33,000 apiece for being among the final 27 players remaining when the tournament was suspended on account of fake chips introduced by another entrant.
The fake chips were allegedly the work of a North Carolina man who, believing authorities at the Borgata were on to him, panicked and returned to his hotel room at Harrah’s Resort. There he flushed his remaining stash of $2.7 million in bogus chips, which had been fashioned with spray paint, down a toilet, according to court papers.
The chips, which bore a Borgata insignia, were discovered after hotel guests complained of leaky pipes. The discovery prompted Borgata employees to investigate and the tournament was eventually canceled.
Atlantic County Superior Court Judge James Isman dismissed the lawsuit Friday, finding that the aborted tournament has already been reviewed by the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. The plaintiffs’ claims “fall squarely within the exclusive jurisdiction of the DGE,” which determined that Borgata complied with Casino Control Act regulations in running the tournament, the judge ruled.
The plaintiffs’ attorney, Maurice VerStandig, said he’s considering an appeal. He sees problems with affording the DGE original jurisdiction over cheating incidents, rather than letting players pursue cases in the traditional jury system.
The DGE, he said, 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,” he said. “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,” he said. “The Borgata botched a poker tournament to an epic degree and it hasn’t cost them so much as a penny.”
Russell L. Lichtenstein, an attorney for Borgata, declined to comment on the case.
Calls requesting comment from Borgata were not returned.
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