A Clark County District Court judge dismissed a defamation lawsuit brought by Sahara Las Vegas against a Las Vegas blogger for a post based on rumors that the hotel and casino would be closed permanently.
Earlier this week, Judge Trevor Atkin granted Scott Roeben, founder of the Vital Vegas blog, a special motion to dismiss under Nevada’s anti-SLAPP laws.
Sahara filed the lawsuit last August after Roeben published a post titled “Sahara Las Vegas to Close Permanently, According to Sources.” Roeben wrote in the article that the casino complex was expected to will be closed definitively in September, citing unidentified sources.
There is no merit to this claim. It is extremely disappointing to have someone spread unfounded rumors that detrimentally impact our team members, guests and community. To find out what we are really about visit https://t.co/rQNalclul5. https://t.co/begaPEyQZb
– SAHARA Las Vegas (@SAHARALasVegas) July 30, 2020
Sahara issued a statement denying the rumors almost immediately. Hotel-casino representatives said the Vital Vegas report was “Completely false” and was based on “unfounded rumors” that “would negatively affect our team members, guests, and the community.”
After refuting the claims, Sahara’s lawyer filed a lawsuit against the founder of the popular blog, arguing that Roeben did not approach the representatives of the resource to confirm or deny the closure rumors. The lawsuit also claimed that the property’s staff were forced to conduct significant damage control and field calls from customers and suppliers.
Some clients suggested they would cancel plans to stay at the property or hold meetings and conferences there due to the rumors.
Casino disappointed by decision
A spokesman for Sahara said the property remains and will remain open and operational and they were disappointed by Judge Atkin’s decision. The spokesperson went on to say that the Vital Vegas story was not “something that can be relied upon for information objective, useful or credible. “
The defamation lawsuit alleged that Roeben was part of a “larger intentional scheme” designed to “disparage [Sahara]
and cause irreparable damage. “
Previously operating as SLS Las Vegas, the property was renamed Sahara Las Vegas in the summer of 2019 as part of a $ 150 million renovation project under new owner Alex Meruelo. Mr. Meruelo and his group Meruelo acquired the Las Vegas Strip hotel casino in the spring of 2018.
Current mood: Elated, exhausted and thankful. Anti-SLAPP motion granted today — Sahara’s frivolous defamation lawsuit was dismissed. Props to superstar-at-law @MarcoRandazza and big thanks to everyone so supportive during this saga. Free speech is worth the fight. https://t.co/CZTXCVOxHN
– Vital Vegas (@VitalVegas) October 20, 2020
The property originally opened in 1952 as a Moroccan-themed resort with 240 hotel rooms. After a series of expansion projects, its hotel rooms rose to 1,700 and other amenities were added over the years.
Commenting on the favorable closing of the Sahara saga, Roeben said on Twitter that he was “elated, exhausted and grateful” that “The frivolous libel suit was dismissed” and that any attempt to silence the writers is worth fighting.
Vital Vegas is a popular blog about Las Vegas-related casino and entertainment news. Most of the articles on the site are based on rumors generated by the incessant Las Vegas rumor mill. And very often these rumors they are true (for example, Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s partnership with Virgin Hotels Las Vegas was first reported by Vital Vegas months before an official announcement was made).