We have used the Las Vegas insider/lifestyle blog Vital Vegas as a reference on several occasions. Sometimes we have used rumors the site discussed as the basis of the story. And you know what? Even when Vital Vegas posts a story as a rumor, the site is usually (or “often,” if we don’t want to get too aggressive with our modifiers) right. But Vital Vegas’s founder, Scott Roeben, got in a bit of trouble recently, after Sahara Las Vegas filed a defamation suit against him for posting about a rumor that the casino was going to close permanently.
Las Vegas Resort Holdings, the owner of the Sahara, is seeking more than $15,000 from Roeben, saying that he caused “widespread fallout” in the organization, causing employees to stress about their job security, calls from reservation holders who were worried that there wouldn’t be a hotel room waiting for them later this year, and a “lack of confidence” from business partners and vendors.
Though the blog post has since been taken down, it summary read, “Rumor is Sahara Las Vegas could close permanently in September 2020.”
Roeben said that his information came from a source who had insider knowledge of the Sahara.
Responding to the legal action, Roeben said to local media outlets:
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.
“I’m not making these things up out of thin air,” he added. “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.”
Roeben has replaced the rumor post with a hybrid apology/explanation:
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.
“We definitely apologize if this rumor caused employees any unnecessary concern. Trust us, they hear rumors long before we do,” Roeben said.
Sahara was the sixth resort built on the Las Vegas Strip, a mainstay since 1952 before closing in May 2011 after several changes in ownership. In 2014, it reopened as SLS Las Vegas. In 2018, it was bought by the Meruelo Group and last year, it was rebranded back to Sahara.
The casino also opened a new poker room February of this year, the first time the Sahara had poker since before it closed in 2011. The poker room reopened in mid-June.