Rod Stewart has learned that in Las Vegas the house always wins.
A federal judge has ordered the British rocker to pay Harrah's Entertainment Inc., the world's largest gambling company, more than $3 million for canceling a millennium-eve concert in 2000.
The ruling stems from a Sept. 7 verdict in which a federal court jury found that the "Hot Legs" singer should return the $2 million the Rio Hotel and Casino paid him to appear Dec. 30, 2000. Stewart bowed out before the gig, saying he was still recovering from throat surgery for thyroid cancer several months prior to the date.
U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks on Monday said that Stewart must return the $2 million and fork over more than $1 million in legal fees, interest and penalties, including $153,483 in contempt-of-court fines and related fees he and his attorneys incurred for failing to hand over certain relevant information before last summer's trial.
Stewart's attorney, Louis "Skip" Miller, refused to comment on the contempt charges, but told reporters that the singer planned to appeal the verdict and jury award. Both the singer and his lawyers are responsible for the additional fines.
During the trial, Stewart said that he kept the Rio's advance because he planned to appear at a later time, but that the hotel seemed uninterested in rescheduling. Harrah's didn't dispute the assumption, saying that a Stewart concert on any other night besides the night in question wouldn't have been as lucrative as that New Year's Eve date.
Harrah's lawyer Kristina Pickering called the judgment the "right result" and "a long time coming."
Stewart's legal docket has seemed busier than his concert schedule the last couple years. The platinum-selling artist, whose career enjoyed a Billboard renaissance with his four Great American Songbook albums (Volume III garnered him his first Grammy last year), was ordered in November 2004 to repay a $780,000 deposit he received for a Central and South American tour that never took shape. In December 2004, a Los Angeles man sued Stewart after the man and his wife were hit by a soccer ball that the strong-legged singer kicked into the crowd while performing at the Hollywood Bowl.
Nevertheless, 2005 ended on an upswing for Stewart, with he and fiancée Penny Lancaster welcoming a son in November. Alastair Wallace Stewart is the first child for Lancaster and the sixth for Stewart. His first gravelly voiced word is eagerly awaited.