Borgata Dockets $10.13m Judgment Against Phil Ivey into Nevada

  • Nevada court approves docketing motion filed four months after New Jersey court processed approval
  • Filing affirms that Ivey and co-defendant Cheng Yin "Kelly" Sun have paid $0 toward judgment despite continuing appellate process in New Jersey
  • Subsequent filing by Borgata shows apparent attempt to seize six-figure winnings earned by Ivey in 2019 WSOP event
Borgata Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City
The Borgata Casino is one step closer to tracing assets belonging to Phil Ivey.

Courts give go-ahead to pursue assets

The Nevada courts have given the green light to New Jersey’s Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa to pursue any assets professional gambler Phil Ivey might own in the state. Ivey and a co-defendant owe $10.13m in a judgment in a high-profile “edge sorting” case.

Ivey and his co-defendant, Cheng Yin “Kelly” Sun, were found liable in 2016 and ordered to refund $10.13m in illicit winnings. The duo had largely garnered these during several multi-day sessions at the Borgata’s high-stakes mini-baccarat tables during 2010-12.

Ivey and Sun admitted implementing a complex edge-sorting scheme that shifted the game’s odds in their favor.

The presiding judge in the New Jersey case ruled that the implied contract between gamblers and casino had been violated. He ordered Ivey and Sun to refund the winnings to restore the two sides to the state that existed prior to the gambling sessions.

The complex case judgment wasn’t finalized until early 2018. At that point, counsel for Ivey and Sun immediately appealed. Normally, such appeals are allowed only when a supersedeas bond equal to the judgment ($10.13m) has been posted. Ivey and Sun have to date battled all of the Borgata’s legal efforts to secure such a bond in the New Jersey appellate case.

Months to docket judgment into Nevada

Counsel for the Borgata applied for and received New Jersey court permission in February 2019 to docket the case into Nevada. This came after a search for any Ivey assets in New Jersey turned up only a single empty bank account. Ivey, a native of New Jersey, has been a resident of Las Vegas for many years. Research indicates that Phil Ivey owns – or has owned – multiple businesses and residences in Nevada.

Court records indicate that Klausner was in contact with a Nevada Clerk of Courts official on or before June 17, 2019, and overnighted documents to Nevada that same day.

However, for unknown reasons, Borgata counsel led by New Jersey attorney Jeremy M. Klausner waited more than four months to file the docketing paperwork into the Nevada court system. Attempts to attach Ivey’s Nevada assets required approval from both New Jersey approval and the formal Nevada filing.

Court records indicate that Klausner was in contact with a Nevada Clerk of Courts official on or before June 17, 2019, and overnighted documents to Nevada that same day. The Nevada clerk, Erin Smith, received the documents and filing fees on June 18 and immediately approved them.

The approved Nevada document shows Ivey and Sun owe a total of 20,474,992.12 to the Borgata, although it appears to contain a transcription error and may be amended later. The proper total, $10,344,518, appears on the New Jersey-notarized application. That sum includes both the original $10.13m judgment plus $214,518 in accrued interest.

Borgata targets Phil Ivey’s WSOP winnings

Identifying and seizing any of Phil Ivey’s assets in Nevada may be problematic, as he is known to have moved some of his worth into holdings outside the US. For instance, Ivey has acquired a luxury seaside villa in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

Ivey continues to play in occasional poker tourneys in Nevada, including two recent events at the 2019 World Series of Poker. Sometime around June 26, Borgata attorney Klausner became aware of Ivey’s participation in the WSOP’s prestigious $50,000 Poker Players Championship, which offered a first prize of nearly $1.1m.

Phil Ivey was among the event’s leaders and guaranteed to win at least $75,000 when Klausner filed for service on him. This was to be served at the World Series of Poker, held at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino Convention Center in Las Vegas. The service receipt, also included in the Nevada case docket, shows receipt of service signed by WSOP’s vice-president of poker operations, Jack Effel.

Effel, as the lead WSOP tournament director, likely found the Series placed in a predicament not of the WSOP’s making when the summons was served. Access to the actual WSOP tables is limited and prominent events such as the PPC are often filmed. Nonetheless, the Borgata’s seeming intent was to seize any winnings earned by Phil Ivey at the WSOP. Ivey ultimately cashed in eighth for $124,410 in the PPC.

It is not known whether the Borgata successfully claimed that $124,000, but in an interesting follow-up, Ivey played only one other event, the $10,000 WSOP Main Event, and busted after just 51 minutes of play. Among several possibilities is that Ivey is playing recklessly, perhaps not minding if he busted, to prevent the Borgata from seizing additional poker winnings.

The end result is that it may be quite some time before Ivey plays another major poker event in Nevada. He is a 10-time WSOP bracelet winner in addition to numerous other titles earned in the state.