Las Vegas Insider Scott Roeben Discusses Sahara Lawsuit Dismissal
Posted on: October 21, 2020, 02:19h.
Last updated on: October 21, 2020, 08:02h.
Mr. Vital Vegas, Scott Roeben, is the go-to Twitter account for the inside scoop on all things Las Vegas for locals and out-of-towners. Roeben is saying free speech prevailed in Sahara’s lawsuit against him.
Sahara Las Vegas, owned and operated by the Meruelo Group, the private holdings firm of billionaire Alex Meruelo, filed a defamation lawsuit against Roeben in early August for tweeting what the casino claimed was an inaccurate rumor. Roeben’s @VitalVegas Twitter, and associated Vital Vegas blog, said on July 30: “Gut-punch of the day: Rumor is Sahara could close permanently in September.”
Sahara argued the tweet led to unrest among employees, “many of whom were already concerned about their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Sahara attorney Matthew Weitz.
But this week, Clark County District Court Judge Trevor Atkin granted a motion to dismiss the lawsuit under the state’s anti-SLAPP laws. Anti-SLAPP laws are tailored to prevent people and companies from using courts to intimidate others who are exercising their First Amendment rights.
I’m truly happy justice prevailed and free speech won the day,” Roeben told Casino.org.
Sahara responded to the dismissal, saying it’s disappointed and disagrees with the ruling.
“Mr. Roeben’s reportage of an unconfirmed rumor is an expression of opinion,” the statement from the casino’s lawyers declared. “While we fully support the First Amendment and believe in the right to free speech, we also believe it is important for those who pose in journalistic capacities to act responsibly.
“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,” the statement concluded.
So, Is Sahara Closing?
Roeben has been managing VitalVegas.com since 2013, but Sahara’s lawsuit was the first time a Strip casino has sued him.
I’ve shared thousands of items, industry chatter and rumors and speculation and opinion and satire. It was unfortunate Sahara felt it had to go this route, as it’s three months of my life I’ll never get back,” Roeben added.
Roeben says he was a frequent visitor at Sahara, and hyped the resort on his Twitter, which has more than 77,600 followers. He won’t be back because Sahara has permanently banned him from the property.
“I’ve frequently helped promote their venues and driven a good deal of business their way,” Roeben said.
As for the July rumor he shared regarding Sahara’s closing, he says today: “I clearly state when something’s unconfirmed. Not all rumors pan out, but I enjoy breaking stories rather than waiting for news releases.”
In Sahara’s defense, it’s October, and the casino resort is still in business. As for its future, Roeben believes the jury’s still out on whether it will be in operation in the coming months and years ahead.
“I’ve said repeatedly, I have always rooted for Sahara’s success,” he stated. “It was a challenge for them even prior to the pandemic, and business conditions are brutal now. They’ve done mass layoffs (as Sahara shared in its WARN notice), so it’s not looking great. I hope they find a way to stay open.”
Asked whether the lawsuit will make Roeben think twice before sharing a rumor in the future, he said the only impact the case has had on his professional life is that he likely will avoid Sahara news. Not because he’s afraid of another lawsuit, but because it’s basically free publicity for the casino resort.
Vital Vegas has 77,600 Twitter followers. Sahara Las Vegas has 30,300 followers.
“My only regret is I feel badly if my story caused Sahara employees any undue stress, as there’s already a lot for them to be concerned about,” Roeben concluded.