Aztar was known as Ramada Inc. before it sold its roadside inns last year to focus on operating three casinos, including TropWorld, the second-largest gambling hall in Atlantic City.
The Nevada district judge who tried the case, Earle W. White Jr., found last year that the buyers "displayed corporate arrogance" by keeping the casino but refusing to pay for it as promised. White awarded Briggs and other investors $14.25 million in damages, $260,000 in legal fees plus interest at 14 percent, which brings the amount due to $33 million.
Richard Snell, then-Ramada chairman, broke his deal with Briggs in 1982 on the ground that she could not supply a signed statement from each of nearly 400 vendors promising not to sue Ramada. Snell declared that failure to provide even one of the releases was grounds to break the deal. One of these potential claims was for $4.96.
The Nevada Supreme Court rejected Aztar's argument on this issue with two words: "We disagree."
Aztar spokesman Joe Cole said the firm had deposited cash equivalents with the court to cover the judgment but had not decided whether to seek a rehearing. He said Aztar had 18 days from Tuesday to decide.
"Mitzi is absolutely ecstatic," said her attorney, Harold P. Gewerter of Las Vegas.
Briggs, 60, who was once worth $44 million but now supports herself by working as a secretary, will not get any of the money. Aztar's refusal to make a $5.7 million installment payment left her unable to repay a loan made against her stock, which was then sold.
Briggs signed over any proceeds from the lawsuit to Ed and Fred Doumani, who were investors with her in the Tropicana and who often helped her financially.
Briggs, a Stauffer Chemical Co. heiress, invested in the Tropicana in 1975. But her fortune began to shrivel, in part because Kansas City mobsters skimmed money won from players, FBI wiretaps showed. Nevada gaming regulators moved against Briggs and her fellow investors when the FBI tapes were disclosed, and they agreed to sell the casino.
"She was an innocent swimming among sharks," Gewerter said.