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Six Players Sue Borgata over Ruling in Christian Lusardi-Affected Tourney

Six of the final 27 players in the opening event of the 2014 Borgata Winter Poker Open have filed a collective lawsuit against the parent company of the New Jersey casino, alleging damages due to the eventual cancellation of the tournament as directed last month by the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (NJDGE).

borgata-logoThe tournament in question was the one affected by the alleged activities of Day 1B chip leader Christian Lusardi, who remains in custody in connection with the cancelled event.  Lusardi, according to official reports, introduced more than 160 fake “5,000”-denomination tournament chips into play before busting late on Day 2 of the event.

The six players who have joined forces as plaintiffs in the lawsuit are Duane Haughton, Michael Sneideman, Cuong C. Tran, Cuong V. Phung, Alvin Vatanavan and Christopher Korres.  Phung is the only New Jersey resident of the six, with Haughton being from New York, Tran from Michigan, Vatanavan from Virginia, and Sneideman and Korres from Connecticut.  The six are represented by attorneys Maurice B. “Mac” VerStandig and William H. Pillsbury of the Philadelphia firm Offit Kurman, P.A.

The lawsuit accuses the Borgata on four counts of alleged damages:

  1. Negligence
  2. Breach of Contract
  3. Breach of Implied Contract
  4. Negligence Per Se

Each of the four is seeking the same amount under the lawsuit, $33,756.44, which represents the difference between the $19,323 ordered to be paid by the Borgata to each of the final 27 players per the NJDGE ruling, and the average value of $53,079.44, which is the per-player share, chopped equal, of the $1,433,145 that remained in the event’s prize pool when play was suspended early on January 17th.

The lawsuit also asks for accumulated interest since the January suspension of play, and asks for attorney’s fees as well.

The 17-page complaint goes to some length to declare that since a winner could not be predetermined due to the vagaries of chance, that an equal chop of the prize money is the fairest way to distribute payment to the 27 remaining players.

The lawsuit, however, makes no mention that more than $900,000 of that remaining prize money was used to pay nearly 2,000 of the other players in the event, who were eliminated prior to the suspension of play but refunded in full by NJDGE order, due to possible contact with Lusardi’s tainted chip stack.  Those refunds were issued despite no evidence or statement that either the Borgata or the NJDGE conducted a table-by-table examination of security tapes from the event to determine which players actually had competed against Lusardi.

The complaint, which FlushDraw has obtained, also details the Lusardi allegations as generally reported, introducing the alleged negligence and contract breaches by the Borgata by way of building its case.  Some examples:

21. Due to the size of the field of entrants in the Winter Open, the Borgata elected to host portions of the tournament in overflow facilities away from its traditional poker room… .

22. Upon information and belief, the Overflow Facilities have fewer security cameras under constant surveillance than does the Borgata’s permanent poker room.

29. Shortly after Mr. Lusardi’s fake chips were smuggled into the Winter Open, multiple tournament players commented to various Borgata employees — including poker dealers, managers and other personnel — that certain chips did not appear to be the same color as tournament chips.

30. These observations notwithstanding, the Borgata did not immediately take any action to investigate any irregularities with the Tournament Chips.

The complaint as filed does not reference published reports detailing how a large quantity of counterfeit chips identical to those eventually discovered were also found at another Atlantic City casino, Harrah’s, nor that Harrah’s staffer contacted the Borgata after discovering the chips during the fixing of a massive plumbing problem quickly traced to Lusardi’s room.  Instead, the complaint asserts that the event was stopped after the Borgata and gaming regularities realized that the total amount of chips in play was “clearly at odds” with the number of chips that should be present.

The filing also incorporates published rumors that the Borgata may have quietly paid off other members of the “Final 27” with compensation over and above the amount mandated by the NJDGE ruling.  According to the complaint:

41. Upon information and belief, the Borgata has privately agreed to pay monies over and above the Paid Sum to various members of the Final 27, in exchange for each such recipient executing, inter alia, a confidentiality agreement, and the Borgata has intentionally set out about ensuring the various members of the Final 27 not know how much money has been paid to select colleagues of theirs.

None of the six plaintiffs in the case have reached a private deal with the Borgata, and while the complaint allows for additional members of the Final 27 to join the complaint, any player already having reached a private deal with the New Jersey casino would be ineligible to join the lawsuit.


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