Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
Another landlord is suing Terry Caudill's downtown Las Vegas casino group over Caudill's move to unilaterally lower the rent paid by the Binion's and Four Queens hotel-casinos.
Natalie Ruth Rittenhouse, trustee of the 1999 Rittenhouse Family Trust, filed suit Wednesday in Clark County District Court against TLC Casino Enterprises Inc. and Speakeasy Gaming of Fremont Inc., which owns Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel.
This brings to six the number of lawsuits filed in Clark County District Court over the rent issue since TLC told the Binion's and Four Queens landlords this spring it would have to pay them less in rent in order to survive the recession that has reduced visitation to the historic properties.
Court papers show TLC asked the landlords to grant rent concessions, but several rejected the proposal and responded with lawsuits.
Wednesday's lawsuit, filed by attorney Richard McKnight, says Rittenhouse is attorney in fact for 14 other individuals. Together they lease .0269 of an acre to Binion's under a contract dating to 1960 and now calling for monthly rent payments of $19,594.
These landlords, like the others, can't evict TLC on their own because Binion's sits on multiple land parcels owned by multiple parties. The hotel-casino was built in such a way that it's not physically divided to correspond with the underlying leased properties.
Rittenhouse says in the lawsuit that beginning in April, Binion's started paying $6,417 in rent and that it's now in default on the lease with $87,539 past due.
``The defendants have breached the lease agreement by paying less than the amount due and by repeatedly stating that they could not, and accordingly would not, pay the lease payments due in the future,'' the lawsuit charges.
TLC has declined comment on the litigation.
Court records show that during a hearing last week for one of the existing lawsuits, District Judge Linda Bell denied a motion by some landlords that a receiver be appointed to run Binion's. The appointment of a receiver wouldn't guarantee the landlords would be paid and would likely upset the property's already precarious position, Bell said.
An attorney for the landlords complained during the hearing that the defendants had paid $2 million to shareholders last year and simply don't want to pay the landlords, minutes of the hearing show.
But an attorney for Binion's said the $2 million distribution was so the shareholders could pay their taxes. Binion's argued during the hearing that the casino has lowered operating expenses, in part by freezing wages, and that lenders are working with the property as management tries to keep it afloat.
Bell ordered TLC to share information with the landlords, subject to sensitive material being sealed, as the case proceeds.