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Vacation Village Casino Expected to Close

9 January 2002

by Jeff Simpson

LAS VEGAS — The Vacation Village hotel-casino was expected to close its doors early Wednesday because of an apparent financial dispute between the family that operates the property and the Las Vegas man who bought it at a November court auction.

Winning bidder Shawn Scott and the property's longtime principal owner, the Heers family, have been wrangling over the casino's daily operations, said a state gaming regulator, who could not provide specifics about the dispute.

A top Vacation Village executive said Tuesday evening that the casino would be closed to the public at about 2 a.m., although the property's 315-room hotel was expected to remain open.

"We're closing the casino because Shawn Scott told us to close. There's 281 people out of work," said Vacation Village General Manager Saint John Martin. "It's ironic because December was our best month."

Scott lacks a Nevada gaming license and must rely on the Heers to operate Vacation Village's small 15,000-square-foot casino. Without a licensed operator, the casino would be forced to close.

At 7 p.m. Tuesday, casino workers were shutting down the property's table games as state gaming regulators watched, although gamblers continued to bet on slot machines.

The slots were expected were expected to be shut down by 2 a.m.

Some casino workers appeared to be disappointed by the turn of events, while others joked about what was happening.

Nevada Gaming Control Board agents were at Vacation Village earlier in the day to inspect the casino's financial books to ensure that enough money was on hand to pay off gamblers’ winnings, said Keith Copher, chief of the agency's enforcement division.

Scott, a Las Vegan, agreed to buy the property for $17.8 million on Nov. 20 after the Heers defaulted on a debt of nearly $19 million owed several creditors.

Casino industry observers have blamed Vacation Village's troubles on managerial shortcomings and growing competition in the locals gambling market.

Earlier Tuesday, Copher said U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Clive Jones could rule today on the Scott-Heers dispute, but the status of such proceedings was unclear in light of the expected closure.

Scott and Vacation Village President Tim Heers did not return Tuesday afternoon phone messages seeking comment. But Ken Merkey, chief executive officer of Capital One LLC, one of Scott's real estate development companies, said in December that Scott planned to keep the property open — at least for the short term.

"We are making every effort to keep it open," Merkey said at the time. "It has a great location and a loyal local player following. It also has lots of surface parking and can draw on traffic from Las Vegas Boulevard, Interstate 15 and the beltway."

The hotel-casino at 6711 Las Vegas Blvd. S. sits about two miles south of Mandalay Bay, near the interstate's Russell Road exit.

Scott relinquished his state gaming license in 1997 after regulators said his operation of the Cheyenne Hotel & Casino, now the Speedway, suffered from sloppy accounting practices.

 
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