|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
July 22, 2009 - What's in a name?
A few million dollars a year, according to the old owners of the Tropicana.
Tropicana Las Vegas Inc., which acquired the Strip resort this month, doesn't see it that way, though.
The new owners of the resort filed a lawsuit Monday in Clark County District Court claiming that they shouldn't have to pay for rights to use the Tropicana name because they acquired the property, which has used the Tropicana since its opening in 1957, in bankruptcy court.
The new owners filed the lawsuit against Tropicana Entertainment and Aztar Corp., the two previous owners of the 34-acre property, asking the court to declare "that the Tropicana is entitled to continue operating under the name it used" for more than 50 years.
In its lawsuit, the company said past owners of the Tropicana have "always had the unquestioned right to use its own name."
The new owners filed a similar motion in Delaware bankruptcy court on Monday seeking to block an automatic stay to use the name requested by the old owners.
Las Vegas-based Tropicana Entertainment claims it did not lose the rights to the Tropicana name in its bankruptcy case.
Tropicana Entertainment spokesman Hud Englehart on Tuesday said the lawsuit is without merit.
"We have offered the Tropicana property in Las Vegas an opportunity to license the use of the name on reasonable terms and they thus far have refused to agree," Englehart said.
He declined to discuss the details of the proposed licensing agreement.
Tropicana Entertainment, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2008 in Delaware, seeks regulatory approval of its new ownership group from the gaming jurisdictions in which the company operates.
The company owns three hotel-casinos in Nevada -- including the Tropicana Laughlin -- and five riverboat casinos in Louisiana, Mississippi and Indiana. After emerging from bankruptcy, the company will be owned by an investors group led by billionaire Carl Icahn.
The Tropicana Las Vegas is owned by an investment group led by Toronto-based Onex Corp.
In the lawsuit, the new owners of the Strip resort said they were "expressly promised ... they would have all the rights they needed to continue operating in the same manner" as the previous owner, "a right that obviously included" the Tropicana name.
Icahn and the other investors "now claim that they have the exclusive right to the Tropicana name (and) have stated their intention to deny the original Tropicana the right to continue to operate" under the name unless "millions of dollars are paid" in annual licensing fees, the lawsuit says.
Tropicana Las Vegas officials declined to comment.
Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at email@example.com or 702-477-3893.
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