In August, the Sahara Las Vegas filed a defamation lawsuit against a popular local blogger. On Tuesday, Judge Trevor Atkin dismissed suit, granting Scott Roeben’s special motion to dismiss, citing Nevada’s anti-SLAPP laws.
Roeben, founder of VitalVegas.com, a resource I myself have used several times for articles on this site, tweeted that he was “elated, exhausted, and thankful,” giving a special shout-out to his lawyer, Marc Randazza.
The lawsuit stemmed from a late July blogpost by Roeben in which he said there was a rumor that the Sahara could close for good in September. The casino sought $15,000 from Roeben, claiming that his story caused “widespread fallout” in the company. Sahara said that employees began to stress about their jobs, business partners and vendors started calling with concerns, and future guests called asking if there would be a hotel for them when they arrived.
“We continue to hold the opinion that Mr. Roeben’s conduct is not good for our team members, the industry or the community he says he serves,” a Sahara spokesperson said in a statement.
A SLAPP (strategic lawsuit against public participation) is a lawsuit usually filed by a deep-pocketed plaintiff aimed to intimidate a critic with the threat of a costly legal battle. The plaintiff doesn’t usually think it will actually win – it is just trying to shut its critic up.
Roeben said that his information came from a source with insider knowledge.
“I’m not making these things up out of thin air,” he said this summer. “Often, things come from casino employees themselves. To go immediately to a lawsuit, to me that’s a red flag. This was a rumor and I presented it as a rumor. The ultimate goal of this lawsuit is to keep me quiet, and I’m not going to shut up.”
How is it defamation to say that a casino that’s in trouble is in trouble? It’s an observation that any lay person can make walking into the casino, that there are no customers. From what I know, it was a horrible situation before COVID-19 and COVID has accelerated that.
Roeben took down the blog post, though the tweet linking to it remained. In place of the post, he wrote, “We clearly state when rumors are rumors. Rumors don’t always turn out to be true. Often they do. If this one turns out to be true, we trust Sahara will retract its denial and send us an edible bouquet.”
He also apologized if it caused employees any “unnecessary concern,” though he added that they hear rumors long before he does.
The Sahara is still open, reopening on June 4, the first day Nevada casinos were permitted to do so during the COVID-19 pandemic. It also opened a new poker room in February. The poker room was one of the first on the Strip to reopen after the casino closures, welcoming back players in mid-June.