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Gambling boat dispute heats up

An employee is arrested in the latest incident between two companies.

By MATTHEW WAITE

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 10, 2001


PORT RICHEY -- Two players in the Port Richey gambling boat business are in an old-fashioned border war months before a new boat is to arrive.

Stardancer Casino Cruises of Little River, S.C., is setting up shop next door to Paradise of Port Richey, which has run boats off the Pithlachascotee River since 1995. Stardancer's arrival had been rumored for months, but dredging equipment moved in Friday announced the newcomer was here.

Since that equipment has gone in near the U.S. 19 bridge over the river, the two competing companies have squabbled over where the property line is drawn out into the water that separates them.

On Saturday and again on Monday, Port Richey police were called in to keep the peace. Officials from both companies have filed trespassing complaints against each other, and both have called Department of Environmental Protection inspectors to hear their complaints.

On Monday evening, the squabble took a bizarre turn when police arrested a Paradise employee after he dived into the water and cut lines that held floating barriers for the dredging.

Mollie Kolokithas, who owns Paradise along with her husband, Alex, said 19-year old Michael Trump was only acting to protect her company's boats, which had been hit by the dredging company's equipment.

Police took Trump, who lives at 10874 Norwood Ave. in Port Richey, to the police station and released him with a citation to appear in court on a criminal mischief charge. And an officer was stationed at the waterfront Monday night.

Sam Gray, the president and CEO of Stardancer Casinos, said it was shameful that Paradise would have employees break the law.

"When he cut that, he didn't give a darn about other people's property or other people's rights or about the ecology we're trying to protect," said Gray, who came to Port Richey on Friday.

Jerry S. Theophilopoulos, an attorney for Paradise, said they would be filing suit against Stardancer.

"Oh yeah, it's going to court," he said. "No doubt about it."

Gray said his company hopes to get its boat operating in May. He said Stardancer has all the proper permits and is acting lawfully.

"Let them sue."

- Staff writer Matthew Waite can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6247 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6247. His e-mail address is waite@sptimes.com.

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