One of the rejected suitors for the Hard Rock Café chain has filed a lawsuit alleging the Seminole Tribe of Florida was the successful buyer because of improper collusion and bid-rigging.
The Seminoles announced the $965m (£493m) purchase of the Hard Rock empire from UK-based Rank Group on 7 December.
Development firm Cordish and a partner, Power Plant Entertainment, are now claiming that Hard Rock management secretly negotiated with the Seminoles for seven months before plans to sell were announced in July.
Power Plant, a partnership between Cordish and Coastal Development, was the original developer of the Seminole Hard Rock casinos and hotels in Hollywood and Tampa, Florida.
But Cordish said it was refused the right to bid for the business even though it could have made a larger offer.
Marty Steinberg, representing Cordish, told Associated Press: "We were declined the opportunity to bid, which is kind of amazing. We believe we would have prevailed.”
The Seminoles agreed to keep Hard Rock managers in place and provide them with "additional financial benefits" if the tribe was the successful bidder, according to the lawsuit. Their actions were motivated by self-dealing and a desire to enrich themselves," it says.
Hard Rock Café International declined to comment, while the Seminoles accused Cordish of being "a sore loser" and insisted the deal went through "a lengthy and open bidding process”.
By Daniel Thomas
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