Court Sides With Costner In Casino Battle

The South Dakota Supreme Court has backed Kevin Costner in a legal battle over a Deadwood casino he owns, ruling that the actor-director doesn’t have to sell his share in the business to sever his relationship with two partners.

Costner wants to become the sole owner of the Midnight Star, an eating and gambling establishment where costumes Costner wore in various movies line the walls.

Costner owns 93.5 percent of the casino. He hired Francis and Carla Caneva to manage the operation and gave them ownership of 6.5 percent. He fired them in July 2004, asking them to part ways as partners, and dissolved the partnership when they declined.

The court dispute centered on the value of the casino. An accountant hired by Costner put its value at $3.1 million, but the Canevas got another Deadwood casino owner to testify that he would pay $6.2 million. A judge ordered that Costner must buy the
Midnight Star for the higher amount or it would be sold on the open market.

Costner appealed, arguing the value wasn’t derived from a hypothetical buyer and seller, as is required by the IRS, and that the value was set without viewing any financial documents. The Supreme Court agreed Thursday that the lower court used the wrong standard to determine the property’s value.

The justices said the property must be revalued but need not be sold. If the casino is determined to be worth no more than the $4.9 million Costner has put into it, the Canevas will not be entitled to any money, his lawyer said.

Costner, 51, filmed much of 1990’s “Dances With Wolves,” which won the Academy Award for best picture, on South Dakota’s plains and in the Black Hills, where Deadwood is located.

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