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December 20, 2014

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After scandal, Atlantic City poker tourney gets high-tech chips

Image

Wayne Parry / AP

In this June 26, 2013, photo, the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa is seen in Atlantic City, N.J., with the nearby Water Club reflected in its gold glass facade.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — A cheating scandal at a casino poker tournament has led to new security measures, including chips that are more intricate, have more colors and include an authentication element that can be checked under ultraviolet light.

The Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa told The Associated Press it was using new chips for its Spring Open poker tournament that began Tuesday.

"This was very expensive, but very necessary," said Joe Lupo, the casino's senior vice president. "In order to have the biggest tournaments in Atlantic City and as the market leader, we need to ensure the integrity of the games."

In January, the casino was forced to suspend an event at its Winter Open after suspicions that someone introduced counterfeit chips. A North Carolina man who won $6,814 during the tournament, Christian Lusardi, was arrested on charges including theft and rigging a public contest.

Lusardi is still in custody awaiting trial. Calls to a number registered to him in Fayetteville were met with a constant busy signal Tuesday, and it could not be determined if he has hired an attorney.

Authorities said Lusardi, after suspecting the fake chips had been noticed, flushed them down the toilet in his hotel room at Harrah's Resort Atlantic City, where he had been staying. But the chips clogged the pipes, and guests on the floor below complained that water was dripping into their rooms.

Maintenance was called, and they found the chips, with a tournament value of 2.7 million, although they had no actual cash value.

A joint investigation by the New Jersey State Police and the state Division of Gaming Enforcement continues, and $1.5 million in prize money is still on hold pending its outcome. About $800,000 in prize money was already paid out before the fake chips were discovered.

The event under scrutiny was the tournament's Big Stack, No Limit Hold 'Em event. There were 27 people remaining in the contest when play was suspended.

The new, more sophisticated chips combine several design and technology elements in use in the industry. They were approved by New Jersey gambling regulators for use in tournaments.

Part of the new security measures will include spot checks of chips in play during games.

"We will be checking chips randomly throughout the day using a new process involving the UV lights," Lupo said. He described the checks as "part of the new normal."

The Borgata also will add more staff and will do more chip counts each day during its tournaments.

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