Borgata cancels NJ poker match where fake chips were used; state probe ongoing

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Saying they have confirmed that one or more people used “a significant number of counterfeit chips” at an Atlantic City poker tournament, state casino regulators on Saturday cancelled the tainted match and ordered all prize money frozen until an investigation is complete.

The New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement cancelled the first event of the Borgata Winter Poker Open. It had suspended the game Friday after suspicions about the use of fake chips arose.

No charges have been filed in the case.

“Thus far, investigators have found that one or more tournament entrants improperly introduced a significant number of counterfeit chips into the tournament, gaining an unfair advantage and compromising the integrity of play for the event,” Tom Ballance, the Borgata’s president and chief operating officer said Saturday.

“It is extremely unfortunate that the criminal actions of these individuals can have a detrimental impact on more than 4,000 other entrants,” he said. “We fully understand and regret the disappointment this cancellation causes our valued customers, and we will work diligently with DGE investigators to resolve the situation as quickly as possible. The integrity of our games and the confidence of our players is of the utmost importance to us.”

Ballance said the Borgata has thoroughly examined its remaining stock of chips, which were cleared by investigators for use in dozens of other events in the poker tournament, which will be played as scheduled.

It was not immediately clear what would happen with the entrance fees paid by people who participated in the tainted match. The Borgata said the state ordered “that all unpaid prize money be held in trust until more details and resolution can be determined.”

New Jersey State Police said Saturday the investigation is ongoing and that no arrests had been made.

The event under scrutiny is the tournament’s Big Stack, No Limit Hold ‘Em event. It began on Tuesday and had a $560 buy-in. There were 27 people remaining in the contest when play was suspended.

Joe Lupo, the casino’s senior vice-president, said concerns arose during play Thursday night. The tournament was scheduled to resume at noon on Friday, but he said it was suspended before that could happen. He would not say what raised concerns about the integrity of the game, saying it was part of the ongoing investigation.

Customers wanting to participate in the tournament go to a registration area at the Borgata, pay the $560 entry fee, and go to a table, where they are given 20,000 chips to use in the poker games. By sneaking fake chips onto the table or otherwise introducing them into the game, a cheating player would benefit by having more chips than he or she had paid for, and is able to last longer in the game. The tables are watched by multiple security cameras, but casino and state officials would not discuss what, if any, evidence they have uncovered of cheating during the games.

The 18-day series of tournaments is a regular feature at the Borgata. The casino’s website said the championship event, which starts Sunday, Jan. 26., would include a $3 million prize guarantee.

The investigation does not involve Internet gambling, which began late last year and which the Borgata has dominated in the early going.

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Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

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