Mogul wins $20m over murder plot slur

Los Angeles - US casino tycoon Steve Wynn won $20 million in defamation damages on Monday after he was accused of planning to have a businessman killed and buried in the desert over a bad gambling debt.

Wynn was awarded the damages after taking legal action against Joe Francis, founder of the entertainment group “Girls Gone Wild”. The week-long trial heard evidence from both men, as well as legendary music producer Quincy Jones.

A combination of file photographs show casino mogul Steve Wynn, left, and "Girls Gone Wild" creator Joe Francis. Credit: REUTERS

Francis first made the comments in court in April 2010 - where they were immune from legal action. That trial was about a $2 million gambling debt, which Francis allegedly ran up at one of Wynn's Las Vegas casinos.

But he was accused of repeating them once outside court, when he was overheard by an online gossip reporter, and again on a recent morning TV show, allegedly harming Wynn's reputation and causing him emotional distress.

“There is no defence. He (Francis) made it up, he did it maliciously,” said Wynn's lawyer Barry Langberg.

Francis claimed that Jones, a friend of both men, had shown him e-mails containing the alleged death threats. But the music producer testified that he was not aware of any verbal or written threats by Wynn against Francis.

Jurors agreed with Wynn's lawyer that Francis acted with malice. A new phase of the trial starting on Tuesday will decide if punitive damages should be awarded for the malicious aspect of the remarks.

Wynn announced in May that his Macau business had received approval to build a new casino in the southern Chinese city, the world's biggest gaming hub.

Wynn Macau is one of six firms licensed to operate casinos in Macau, which was handed back to Beijing in 1999 and remains the only Chinese city where casino gambling is allowed. - Sapa-AFP