A Clark County District Court judge has dismissed a defamation lawsuit filed by Sahara Las Vegas against a Las Vegas blogger over a post based on rumors that the hotel and casino resort would close 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 this past August after Roeben published a post headlined “Sahara Las Vegas to Close Permanently, Per Sources.” Roeben wrote in the article that the casino complex was expected to be shuttered for good in September, citing unnamed 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 put out a statement denying the rumors almost immediately. Representatives for the hotel-casino said the Vital Vegas report was “completely false” and was based on “unfounded rumors” that would “detrimentally impact our team members, guests, and community.”
After refuting the claims, Sahara’s attorney filed a suit against the popular blog’s founder, arguing that Roeben did not reach out to resort representatives to confirm or deny the closure rumors. The lawsuit further claimed that property staff was forced to undertake significant damage control and field calls from patrons and vendors.
Some customers suggested they would cancel plans to stay at the property or hold meetings and conferences there because of the rumors.
Casino Disappointed by Decision
A spokesperson for Sahara said that the property remains and will remain open and operating and that they were disappointed by Judge Atkin’s decision. The spokesperson went on that the Vital Vegas story was not “something that can be relied upon for any factual, useful, or credible information.”
The defamation suit alleged that Roeben was part of a “larger, intentional scheme” aimed to “disparage [Sahara]
and cause irreparable harm.”
Formerly operating as SLS Las Vegas, the property was rebranded as 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 Meruelo group 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 doors back in 1952 as a Moroccan-themed resort with 240 hotel rooms. After a series of expansion projects, its hotel rooms were brought to 1,700 and a number of other amenities were added throughout the years.
Commenting on the favorable closure of the Sahara saga, Roeben said on Twitter that he was “elated, exhausted, and thankful” that the “frivolous defamation lawsuit was dismissed” and that any attempts to silence writers is worth fighting against.
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 churned out by the never-ceasing Vegas rumor mill. And very often these rumors prove true (e.g. Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment’s partnership with Virgin Hotels Las Vegas was first reported by Vital Vegas months before an official announcement was made.)
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