Late last year, we wrote in this space about the legal battle between Las Vegas gaming executive Dan Lee and his former employer, Pinnacle Entertainment, Inc.

Last week, Lee’s plans to develop a casino resort in Louisiana over the objections of Pinnacle took a big step forward. The former Pinnacle CEO was awarded Louisiana’s last casino license, freeing him to continue work on the Mojito Pointe project in Lake Charles.

If completed, Mojito Pointe would be in competition with Pinnacle’s L’Auberge resort and casino. Pinnacle had planned a second casino there, called Sugarcane Bay; it was approved by voters in a referendum five years ago. Plans for the project were dropped when Lee left Pinnacle.

Pinnacle filed a lawsuit last year to try to stop Lee from recruiting its employees to join the Mojito project, alleging that he had violated a non-compete clause in his separation agreement. A Clark County court ruled against Pinnacle in November. District Court Judge Kathleen declined to issue an injunction preventing Lee from pursuing his plans.

Lee has since countersued, claiming Pinnacle has been filing lawsuits in an attempt to suppress competition rather than for legitimate legal reasons.

That suit is slated for trial in February of 2012.

Lee told the Las Vegas Sun that his group has hired casino designers and architects to draw up blueprints for the project.

The resort will be focused on competing with proposed competition in nearby Texas, as well as fighting off the recession blues that have dragged the gaming industry down.

Lee said he hopes Mojito Pointe is up and running by late 2013.

Resource: Las Vegas Sun: “Las Vegas gaming exec plans $400 million Louisiana casino project” by Steve Green: February 18, 2011