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Borgata to Introduce High-Tech Chips in Wake of Counterfeit Scandal

New Jersey’s largest live poker room, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa, has announced that it will be introducing a series of new, “high-tech” chips in conjunction with the Borgata Spring Poker Open series.   The new chips are designed to prevent a repeat of the counterfeit-chip scandal which caused the cancellation of the first event in the Borgata’s Winter Open Poker series back in January.

In that affair, roughly 160 counterfeit chips of “5,000” denomination (these were tournament chips, with no real-cash value), were allegedly inserted into a major rebuy tourney by Christian Lusardi.  Lusardi remains jailed in connection with the crime, and the majority of that event’s prize money remains held pending a resolution by New Jersey gaming officials.  When play was suspended, 27 players remained, with more than $1.4 million in prizes still to be awarded.

The alleged ability of Lusardi to insert such a large quantity of fakes raised a general call by players for increased chip security, which was also on the minds of regulators and Borgata tournament officials.  Whether demanded to do so or not by gaming regulators, the Borgata likely examined several different enhanced-security measures for their measures.  While players focused on RFID (Radio Frequency ID embeds in the chips), the Borgata and state regulators instead focused on a more effective solution, UV stamping of high-denomination chips.

Borgata tourney director Tab Duchateau (@TabDuchateau) recently Tweeted a generic photo showing some preliminary designs, though those aren’t the ones actually being used by the Borgata.  What is known is that in late March, the Borgata received an approval from New Jersey gaming regulators to buy UV-stamped chips from a Maine poker-chip manufacturer, Game On Chip Company.

Game_On_CC_LogoGame On Chip is subsequently in the process of receiving its own New Jersey approval as a casino supply vendor, with a limited number of chips conditionally approved for use at the Borgata immediately.  The UV stamping on the high-denom chips is on both the faces and edges, and will almost certainly be accompanied by the addition of UV lightbulbs and a series of UV-lensed cameras feeding into the security areas monitoring the poker play at the Borgata.

The exact cost per chip hasn’t been specified, but as the Borgata’s senior VP, Joe Lupo, told NewJersey.com, “This was very expensive, but very necessary.”  Added Lupo, “In order to have the biggest tournaments in Atlantic City and as the market leader, we need to ensure the integrity of the games.”

UV-stamping has significant advantages over RFID-embedded chips as a security measure, which likely made the decision something of a no-brainer.  While invisible to the naked eye under normal lighting, bold UV stamping should be easily visible to properly filtered cameras, and any high-denomination lacking the stamp is immediately suspect.

RFID-embedded chips, on the other hand, are an affirmative device, and therefore of much less use in the immediate detection of counterfeits.  Any counterfeit chips being introduced by cheating players would lack the RFID wafers, but in small numbers, they could still be inserted with relative ease into stacks of similarly-colored legitimate chips.

Several recent New Jersey reports on the new Borgata chips also state that the Borgata will be adding workers to its tournament crew, in part to do closer monitoring of the floor and make it harder for players to cheat in the manner done by Lusardi.  Ramdomized spot checks on player stacks are also reported to be part of the increased security procedures.

At least one other participant in the cancelled January event has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Borgata and its operating company, alleging negligence in the security and operation of the tournament.  Meanwhile, participants in the cancelled January tournament have waited nearly three months for an official resolution that have been promised soon.

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