The organizers of the World Poker Tour (WPT) Borgata Winter Open in Atlantic City are furiously scrubbing egg off their faces as they attempt to deal with a bogus chip scandal. The annual east coast mega-tourney got off to a rocky start after what the state Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) called a “substantial amount” of counterfeit 5k chips were detected Thursday night during Event #1, the Big Stack NLHE.
The $560 buy-in event was suspended before play was scheduled to resume on Friday with just 27 players left from the starting field of 4,814. By early Saturday, organizers had decided to cancel the event entirely and freeze all unpaid prize money until they finished their investigation. There’s been no statement on whether players who’d already busted out of the event might have their buy-ins refunded.
Organizers have been tight-lipped as to what their investigation has uncovered, with Borgata president/COO Tom Ballance releasing a statement early Saturday confirming that “one or more” players had “improperly introduced a significant number of counterfeit chips” into play, thereby “gaining an unfair advantage and compromising the integrity” of the event. Ballance insisted that the tourney’s other events would proceed as planned following a thorough vetting of the casino’s stock of chips.
During Thursday’s action, players such as Luke Edwards had released photos of the suspect chips (pictured) via Twitter. Unofficial estimates of the total value of bogus chips in play have ranged as high as one million. The brouhaha has renewed calls for brick-and-mortar casinos to upgrade their chips to include radio-frequency identification (RFID) tags to ensure proper tracking of all chips in play.
Regardless of what shenanigans the Borgata’s investigation ultimately uncovers, the irony here is undeniable. With New Jersey having launched its online gambling operations in late November – in which the Borgata is the undisputed poker market leader – operators and regulators were desperate to avoid any circumstances in which online play was found to be compromised by technical skullduggery, lest it provide grist for the mills of anti-online gambling campaigners such as Las Vegas Sands‘ curmudgeon Sheldon Adelson. One can only hope Adelson and his ilk now campaign as zealously for a ban on brick-and-mortar gambling due to the industry’s demonstrated inability to guarantee fair play for participants.