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Poker Player Files Suit Over ‘Rigged’ Tourney

(CN) - An Atlantic City casino hoodwinked by counterfeit chips in a poker tournament has refused to refund competitors their buy-in money, a class claims in court.

The 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open, referred to as the "Big Stack, No Limit Hold 'Em," kicked off at the Borgata Hotel Casino and Spa in Atlantic City, N.J., on Jan. 12, 2014.

On Jan. 17, posts appeared on the online poker forum Two Plus Two about a 24-hour suspension of the tournament after the discovery of counterfeit poker chips.

Several media outlets reported on the arrest later that month of 42-year-old Christian Lusardi of Fayetteville, N.C., after investigators allegedly linked him to $2.7 million worth of counterfeit poker chips flushed down an Atlantic City toilet.

CNN said the flushed chips had clogged the sewers, and that tournament officials subsequently found 160 counterfeit poker chips - each with a value of $5,000, for a total of $800,000 - among the genuine casino chips.

The tournament was canceled with 27 of the original 4,800 entrants still competing, CNN reported.

Recreational poker player Jacob Musterel says he had paid two $560 entry fees for the tournament and wants to represent a class of players. He sued the Marina District Finance Co. Inc., the Marina District Development Co. LLC, the Marina District Development Holding Co. LLC, Boyd Atlantic City Inc. and Boyd Gaming Corp. on Feb. 18 in Atlantic County Superior Court.

Lusardi is not named in the complaint.

The tournament billed the prize money as the "$2 million guarantee," and a $560 buy-in got each player 20,000 chips, the class says.

"As is now well known, the subject poker tournament turned out to be an utterly compromised and 'rigged' event, with defendants negligently permitting an individual to introduce large amounts of counterfeit chips into the tournament, tainting the games and essentially forfeiting the participants' buy-in money, without the participants having been provided with a fair opportunity to win the tournament's prize money, as promised," the complaint states.

The class blames the defendants for having "failed to properly supervise the event (or their staff); failed to implement adequate security measures; failed to detect a participant's introduction of significant amounts of counterfeit chips into the game at various times, even (upon information and belief) after other participants had noticed the counterfeit chips and compromised play, and informed staff; did not halt the event as soon as the event was, or should have been, recognized as compromised; failed during the tournament to count the chips on an ongoing basis and failed to adequately secure the legitimate chips during breaks in play; and otherwise acted negligently in permitting an utterly rigged gaming event to occur at their casino."

Essentially admitting its guilt after the tournament's cancelation, officers for the defendants "characterized the security failures as ... a 'learning experience' for the casino, and as presenting an opportunity to improve its security apparatus (obviously inadequate for the subject tournament) for future events," according to the complaint.

"Disgracefully, however, defendants' security 'education' unjustly comes at the expense of the plaintiff and the other members of the plaintiff class, unless the entry fees are refunded," the class says.

In addition to the return of their buy-in money, the class wants treble damages for negligence, consumer fraud, breach of contract and unjust enrichment.

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