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Counterfeit chips at Borgata Casino, Lusardi arrested

Published on October 25, 2014, 4:32 pm

by Jeff Grant Twitter account Jeff Grant LinkedIn account

Earlier this year, arrests were made in what has been dubbed the Borgata Chipgate, a tongue-in-cheek association with President Nixon's Watergate scandal of the early 1970s. Counterfeit chips were smuggled into the Borgata and used to rip off the casino before being flushed down the toilet at a nearby resort hotel room. When a pipe became clogged at the neighboring Harrah's casino, officials discovered a plumbing blockage worth approximately $2.7 million in phony poker currency. North Carolina resident Christian Lusardi was subsequently arrested in connection with the counterfeit chips. He was charged with theft, among other crimes.

Lusardi reportedly sneaked the chips into the Borgata for use in a poker tournament, at which he won nearly $7,000. The tournament was called the “Big Stack, No Limit Hold 'Em Event.” The phony chips were disbursed into the casino currency flow, tainting the integrity of the Borgata Winter Poker Open and leading to the cancellation of Event 1 at that tournament. Guilty and looking for a way to conceal his crime, Lusardi then purportedly took the chips to Harrah's and flushed them down the toilet.

2014 Borgata Winter Open Poker tournament
The position of Christian Lusardi at the 2014 Borgata Winter Open Poker tournament

Borgata Introduces “Anti-Cheating” Chips

Fast forward several months: The Borgata Spring Open Poker tournament is now up and running, and officials have armed themselves against the type of counterfeit activities and theft Lusardi tried to get away with earlier this year. The new chips contain multiple colors and intricate designs that would be hard for even the most savvy of counterfeiters to replicate. Additionally, the chips respond to ultraviolet light in a special way known only by Borgata workers.

Joe Lupo, a VP at the casino, said that facility workers would be checking chips at random during the tournament using ultraviolet light. Lupo referred to the the chip re-vamping process as a “very expensive, but very necessary” way of deterring future individuals like Lusardi from taking advantage of the casino.

Winners Still Waiting; Casino Community Applauding

About $1.5 million in prizes has yet to be awarded from the canceled Event 1 back in January. Once the investigation is complete, officials will be able to disburse the cash to the rightful winners. Event 1 had been dubbed a “guaranteed event” in which $2 million in cash prizes was promised. Given the unanticipated circumstances, however, the casino community has applauded Borgata officials in their effort to withhold all prize money until the investigation is complete.

Borgata, Baccarat, and Phil Ivey: Another Scandal

Even as news of the Borgata's new-and-improved poker chip was broadcast to the world, details of the casino's recent allegations against poker pro Phil Ivey were also leaked. Borgata officials have accused Ivey of cheating at baccarat back in 2012 by “edge sorting” to the tune of nearly $10 million. Edge sorting involves the memorization of minor manufacturing flaws on the backs of cards. Players memorize the face value of the cards using the manufacturing flaws as visual cues, then take advantage of this extra "knowledge" at the game table. Some consider this to be cheating and view it as a crime worth prosecuting (also read how Don Johnson Pocketed $15.8 Million at Atlantic City Casinos).

Phil Ivey
In 2012, Phil Ivey has been accused of ‘edge sorting’ at Borgata’s baccarat tables

Crockfords Casino of London accused Ivey of the same thing in 2013. Interestingly, Ivey admitted that he did, indeed, use flaws on the backs of cards at Crockfords to memorize their value. He maintained, however, that it was the casino's responsibility to remove the flaws and not his fault for taking advantage of them. Ivey then referred to himself an “advantage player,” refusing to accept the notion that edge sorting equals cheating.

Jewelry Thieves Rip Off Borgata at 10th Anniversary

Last summer, the Borgata celebrated its 10th anniversary with a concert featuring singer Jill Scott, hip hop group The Roots, and comedian Aziz Ansari. While the night was still young, jewelry thieves crashed into one of the Borgata's stores and made off with millions of dollars in jewelry. The crime was described as a “smash-and-grab” incident, a form of jewelery theft that seems to be growing in popularity in the country. Also known as a “three-minute burglary,” this theft technique accounts from over 80 percent of all jewelry thefts, according to statistics from the Jewelers' Security Alliance.

Last February, four men were arrested in connection with the Borgata jewelry theft. Atlantic City police were instrumental in the capture of these men, who also are thought to have acted in similar crimes between the dates of July 1 and January 30.

The Borgata Catches a $50 Million Break, Maybe

Borgata Hotel Casino & SPA (logo)The news hasn't been all bad for Borgata cash counters. Last October, a tax court judge ruled that Atlantic City had overestimated the worth of the casino during the years of 2009 and 2010. As such, the Borgata was forced to pay more in taxes than it should have, according to the judge. The gambling hall is thereby entitled to a $48 million refund from the city government, although it has not received the money yet.

While Borgata workers laud the judge's decision, the city plans to appeal it, saying such a huge refund would be “unfair” to Atlantic City tax payers. The Borgata shells out nearly $60 million in taxes per year, and the entire city's budget is approximately $250 million. The notion that one casino should be responsible for over one fifth of the entire city budget seems outrageous to those who support the refund.

About the Borgata

The Borgata Casino, Resort, and Spa houses 2,000 hotel rooms at sits at Renaissance Point in Atlantic City. The casino offers nearly 3,500 slot machines and 250 table games, as well as the aforementioned poker tournaments. In a time where most Atlantic City casinos are struggling, the Borgata reported significant financial gains in 2013. The Tropicana is the only other New Jersey casino that experienced notable financial success last year. Revel has been in the news lately for less positive reasons, including bankruptcy and a possible change in ownership.


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