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November 23, 2014

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XS chief Jesse Waits takes action to retrieve $50,000 in Deadmau5-Don Johnson dispute

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Danny Mahoney/XS

Deadmau5 and Jesse Waits.

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Don Johnson, CEO of Heritage Development, a Wyoming-based company that uses computer-assisted wagering programs for horse racing, at a pool party at Cosmopolitan’s Boulevard Pool on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013. Johnson’s blackjack winnings include more than $15 million at three Atlantic City casinos in 2011.

In February 2011, Deadmau5 unexpectedly played Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” during an appearance at XS in Wynn Las Vegas. As the DJ unleashed the track, a man danced onstage unannounced as “Don (Effing) Johnson” flashed from the LED screen behind the artist.

That person was Don Johnson, famous mostly for his hot run on blackjack tables at Atlantic City resorts from December 2010 through April 2011. Johnson reportedly won about $15 million, total, from Caesars Atlantic City, Borgata Hotel & Casino and Tropicana. During that run, and in the months after, he was known to uncork ridiculously expensive bottles of champagne and spray dance floors in nightclubs ranging from XS on the Strip to One4One in London.

But the memorable night at XS more than 2 1/2 years ago was not restricted to the scene in the club. According to a report posted by The Hollywood Reporter, Johnson offered Deadmau5 $200,000 to play “Livin’ on a Prayer” — which is not part of his set — during the DJ’s appearance at XS.

But Johnson, according to court documents cited by THR, did not pay the debt. In June, the story reports, XS Managing Partner Jesse Waits filed suit in federal court in Las Vegas stemming from a portion of the debt he reportedly covered himself (in a text Wednesday evening, Waits said he could not comment on a link to the story that was texted to him).

This is how it all unfolded, according to the report in THR: In the days leading to the Deadmau5 appearance at XS, a William Morris Endeavor agent named Joel Zimmerman traveled to Las Vegas to book a gig for a client who is not named in court papers but is known to be Deadmau5 — whose real name, coincidentally, also is Joel Zimmerman but is not the same person as the WME agent.

During that visit, Waits introduced the agent to the notorious Johnson, who is known to spend upwards of a half-million dollars a night partying in nightclubs and who also happens to be friends with Jon Bon Jovi.

On the night of the performance at XS, Johnson reportedly (in an exchange drawn from court papers) approached the agent Zimmerman and offered $200,000 if Deadmau5 played “Livin’ on a Prayer.” Video from that night shows the song was played. Zimmerman relayed the message, with Waits reportedly vouching for Johnson’s wealth and trustworthiness to make good on the offer.

After the show, Waits and Zimmerman allegedly left the club to collect the $200,000 from Johnson, who was playing at a high-stakes blackjack table and evidently was losing quite a lot of money. When the payback was requested, Johnson allegedly shouted at Waits and refused to pay. Members of Johnson’s personal security team approached, and Zimmerman and Waits left without being paid.

Zimmerman then allegedly told Waits to cover the $200,000 promised to Deadmau5 or risk damaging the relationship between the club and the DJ.

From the William Morris court documents cited in THR’s story, "Waits said he would contribute $50,000 toward the $200,000. The WME Parties contributed the remaining $150,000." The dispute long unresolved, Waits took the WME agent to court for allegedly failing to pay back the $50,000 loan.

Johnson has been in Las Vegas as recently as August. During an interview at a private party at the Cosmopolitan on that visit, he talked of being banned from Caesars Entertainment casinos over the past “three or four years, maybe,” for his big blackjack hauls over the years. “This is since I beat them out of $4.23 million in Atlantic City (in December 2011),” the flamboyant Johnson said at the time.

Caesars Entertainment spokesman Gary Thompson verified that Johnson has indeed been banned by the resort company, but the reason has never been specified.

And it appears you won’t find the famous blackjack player flipping cards at Wynn or Encore, either.

Follow John Katsilometes on Twitter at Twitter.com/JohnnyKats. Also, follow “Kats With the Dish” at Twitter.com/KatsWiththeDish.

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