Vital Vegas Files Anti-SLAPP Motion in Defamation Lawsuit

In case you missed it, we were sued by Sahara casino for a rumor we shared about the possible closure of the Las Vegas resort.

After our story went live, Sahara reached out to express concerns, and as a courtesy, we did a retraction. Apparently, that didn’t satisfy Sahara.

Sahara sued for “defamation.” Here’s the lawsuit (.pdf format).

While we bent over backwards to work with Sahara, we weren’t willing to just bend over.

The First Amendment: Still a thing.

We sought out representation, and hired the attorney who helped draft Nevada’s anti-SLAPP statute, Marc Randazza. Randazza is one of the foremost First Amendment lawyers in the country.

Put simply, Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law protects free speech.

SLAPP stands for “strategic lawsuits against public participation,” and SLAPP suits are often used to intimidate and silence critics through expensive legal proceedings.

Wikipedia says, “The plaintiff’s goals are accomplished if the defendant succumbs to fear, intimidation, mounting legal costs or simple exhaustion and abandons the criticism.”

Anti-SLAPP laws are intended to prevent people or companies from threats of groundless defamation cases.

So, on Sep. 18, 2020, we filed an anti-SLAPP motion (.pdf format).

We think the anti-SLAPP motion is a masterpiece, although it’s possible we’re biased.

We think this motion speaks for itself.

If you think the law is boring, you’ve never satisfied the first prong. Just saying.

A key component of the motion is something called “actual malice.”

Defamation has to meet certain criteria: Our story would have had to be published with: 1) knowledge it was false or, 2) reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.

Neither of those things is even remotely true.

It’s unfortunate Sahara felt it was necessary to go this route. We’ve always been a fan of the place and have rooted for it to succeed. We certainly have never rooted for it to close.

At this point, it’s not really about whether Sahara might close or not. It’s about free speech.

We hold the First Amendment in extraordinarily high regard, and we think it’s worth fighting for.

Stay tuned, and thanks for all the kind words of support during this surreal saga.

Update (10/20/20): A judge granted our anti-SLAPP motion and the case has been dismissed. Turns out, free speech is worth fighting for.

Anti-Slapp Dismissed

Some of our favorite boom of 2020.

50 thoughts on “Vital Vegas Files Anti-SLAPP Motion in Defamation Lawsuit

  1. Idle Vegas

    So the original post was deleted after it was amended.

    Wasn’t the alleged closure to take place right after Labor Day?

    Will be an interesting case to watch.

    Has the Vital Vegas staff been named from Sahara?

  2. Mike Alexakis

    Do they have to pay your legal costs if you prevail? I was very fortunate in my disability case because California cracked down on insurance company abuse, they used to take every single disability case to court because it delayed resolution, which is great for them, they used to try and starve out people. Had they taken me to court they were on the hook for my attorney fees, tens of thousands of dollars worth, if I won, which I easily would have. Nevada is not as regular-people friendly as California is, we dont take kindly to big monied interests crapping on the average Joe…

  3. MrBuzzkill

    I’m way too old to be in the Sahara, buuuuuut I do some of my day drinkin’ at CasBar. They seem to tolerate old local guys before dark, so as long as I’m outta there before the tourist babes wake up, my money’s good.

    I’m saddened to see the Sahara go after something so trivial when they really should be focused on what Circa will do to them. They’re about to be schooled on how to attract the all-important spendy young male, and the women he hopes to meet and entertain.

    Who knows? Me and the Dino’s crowd may take over CasBar after-all. Lol.

  4. Jackson

    Maybe it’s pro forma, but the complaint repeated says: “Plaintiffs have been forced to hire counsel to prosecute this action and are entitled to an award of their reasonable attorney’s fees.”

    Yet, the address of the lawyer is identical to the address of the company that owns the Sahara. As such, the likelihood that the company was “forced to hired counsel” is probably zero.

    This suit was (probably) drawn up by a lawyer already on the pay roll. Aside from court fees, this cost the company nothing.

  5. Boulder Steve

    They say you can’t fight city hall. In Nevada it’s more like cannot fight the casinos. Good luck I’ll be rooting for you

      1. greg nicholson

        Scott, there is a guy by the name of Jason Goodman, CROWD SOURCE THE TRUTH …he is in the same boat as you (he has about 125 k subscribed to his YouTube channel), like you, he is glib and smart, and ‘I believe’ he is being sued by the Hollywood Academy……I will mention your clever !

  6. Will

    A casino doing this to one of their biggest champions is to me, very symbolic of the industry’s current attitude toward their customer base. I’m sorry this is happening to you, will be rooting for you!

    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      Yeah, it’s as if this one blog post meant more than the dozens of posts and Tweets in support of the place, despite its many challenges. Short-sighted, to say the least, as I will not share anything positive about them moving forward. A significant miscalculation, and a complete lack of understanding about the reality of citizen journalism and influence.

  7. Delta Dave

    I read the V/V story on the rumored closure of the Sahara, later the retraction, and now, this bullshit. Everything I read made it quite clear it was only a rumor and that nothing was concrete. I don’t recall anything that hinted of malice or hopefulness that the Sahara might actually close either. The retraction was respectful and professional and the folks at the Sahara need to quit their sniveling, grow some thicker skin, and move on to more pressing matters. The V/V article didn’t cause financial harm to the Sahara, if anything, it reminded people the place still existed.
    Thanks for being upfront with your readers Scott, blog is awesome !

    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      Thank you. I’m not sure it was as respectful as they’d have liked, but I’m not here to sooth the egos of casinos. The entire thing is intended to silence me, and that’s not happening.

  8. Mike Alexakis

    It was not Scott’s “opinion” that there were rumors of Sahara closing, the Sahara hotel is not an “individual” despite Mitt Romney saying so, the Sahara was not “maligned”, and of course its not “reasonable to assume it was false” based on naming a source. I do credit you with the assertion that “Sahara has the right to sue”, they have in house council, this is the United States, so you did manage to get one item correct… I put the odds of an out of court settlement at exactly the odds of Bellagio installing a bank of nickel video poker machines…

    1. Mike Alexakis

      It was a blog post, labeled as a rumor, there was no malice… Blogs are considered differently than newspapers, you seem like an educated person, yet you purposely blur those lines multiple times on both of your posts in this comment thread. Just the fact that Vital Vegas is a blog gives it different treatment in a court of law than a newspaper, magazine, or news website. The lawsuit is for $15,000, which is not even to the level of chump change to a Las Vegas strip resort, we will see how this shakes out, my opinion is that it either dies quietly or gets a summary judgement SLAPP’d into its face…

    1. Mike Alexakis

      My disability case example was regarding attorney and legal fees, and the contrasts between California and Nevada… It certainly was not “bias”, although I admit I do like this blog and Scott’s writing and humor… We will see how this plays out, the fact that Sahara only asks for $15,000 tells me this is a publicity stunt, that is not even pocket change to a casino/resort hotel…

      1. Mark

        I understand. Just like bringing up Romney wasn’t disclosing any political bias.
        But we do agree on this blog. I hope Scott learns a lesson and survives this. He’s a good writer.

        1. Mike Alexakis

          Mitt Romney: “Corporations are people, my friend”… Its a quote he will live with forever… Just like the fact that Mitt Romney will always be remembered for his courageous impeachment vote…

          1. Mark

            Do corporations not employ millions of people, providing a living wage and benefits? How many employees depended on the Sahara for their only source of income?

  9. Tom Mills

    So, all I need to know about the Sahara and it’s leadership is that they woke up one morning and decided their “priority” issue was to sue a blogger who fairly, honestly and yes, often, snarkily, reports on all aspects of the city in a consistently accurate way. Doesn’t the leadership at Sahara have more important issues to face? Apparently not. If the place stays open I’ll never step foot in it. Scott posted a retraction to his piece (though it was probably accurate in the first place) but that’s not enough for the struggling casino’s ego. Give me a break.

    1. Tim T

      It’s pretty obvious this is a nuisance lawsuit, retaliatory in nature. I doubt the Sahara IMHO had any real damages. But it was pretty reckless of VV to print an article that they were going to permanently close. Rumour or Truth, even speculation can be damaging. If your going to write something like that, you better have multiple confirmed sources on the record.

      1. Coop

        awful short sighted of you. Employee’s and guests should be entitled to current information and hope for the future also. Not just our Overlords!

  10. Mike Alexakis

    “Rumours” was a terrible album by a terrible pop band, Fleetwood Mac… Rumors are are a feature of blogs, not a bug… Fleetwood Mac is worse than fingernails on a chalkboard, or Billy Ray Cyrus…

  11. DuLac55

    Did everyone else notice the second “u” added to “rumor” (“rumous”) by both Tim T and Jay S? Do we have non-Americans opining on US law? Just curious. A lot of the arguments are truly missing a key point from Scott – he has tried to work with the Sahara and they continued the lawsuit. Scott has been a champion of the resort and sharing a rumor that it might close is not an opinion nor is it harmful – it could actually drive some business there in the short term. This resort has had problems since the first round of renovations by SBE. The property is beautiful, both in round 1 and now in round 2, but they haven’t been able to draw customers. Further, a rumor about a business closing after COVID-related shutdowns, doesn’t seem like too big of a stretch these days. Restaurants and other consumer-related businesses are closing left and right. This sounds more like the big company trying to scare the little guy than anything else. Glad Scott is standing up to it as it is completely misplaced. VV has been helpful to Sahara over the years and this isn’t going to win Sahara any new customers but could cause people like me not to return as I did last fall to see the remodeled floor and throw some dice. Can we get back to bars reopening now? HA.

    1. Michael Bluejay

      This is just so much B.S. Filing a defamation lawsuit against someone who did not commit defamation, in order to silence him and/or extort money from him, is exactly what bullying is. Scott’s post was (1) identified as a rumor, not fact, and (2) was backed by at least one credible source. Have you noticed that Scott’s batting average on rumors/predictions is excellent? It’s because he uses good sources.

      Sahara sued a responsible journalist practicing responsible journalism to shut him up. That’s bullying.

      1. Michael Bluejay

        Scott’s source(s) is/are confidential. That’s how it works, in both blogs and pro news organizations: you have to respect sources’ desire not to be named or those sources won’t talk to you, and then you don’t have news. For example, without confidential sources, the public never would have found out about Watergate.

        Confidential/unnamed sources are not “anonymous”; their identities are known by *the reporters*.

  12. Coop

    Great work my good man. Stand for our FREEDOMS. Censorship is the thumb that holds us down.

    I for one know how much positive coverage you gave SLS and Sahara. How many people ate at Cleo’s because of you? Did they wet your beak for that? I am guessing not. Good Luck my good man. If you need financial assistance for your legal defense just ask us. We love you.

  13. Coop

    Helping Guests and alerting low level workers to the fact that their visits, jobs and lives about to be ripped apart…You choose to worry about the Monsters doing it. WOW. Please don’t run for office.

  14. Tom T

    Coop, what about Sahara’s “freedoms” or at least right to privacy. Your assumption is what VV published is 100% truth.
    If it was, he has an opportunity in court through discovery to prove he was just reporting what a reasonable person would assume was truthful. Just because someone repeats to him something, doesn’t make it be true or protect VV from libel laws. Freedom of speech is not the same as freedom to say whatever you want and cause injury to another person or business.
    If VV acted reckless in printing this rumor, the Sahara has a right to pursue damages. Just as if you or myself were harmed by someone spreading unfounded lies that damages our character or reputation. However in this case It’s a frivolous lawsuit against a blogger who irresponsible blogger who printed something and may have (unlikely) injuries a business.

    1. Coop

      Rights for Companies over people? We may not be on the same page here. Or Country. We will see if Rumors can lead to a major Corporation managing their investment into the ground. But I think it may be the other way around.
      Clearly I do not speak for Vital Vegas, IMO this is entertainment. I saw no editorial legal mumbo jumbo here. If we patrons received good and accurate information from these companies, their spokespeople, or our Media Vital Vegas would not have the traffic he does. But it does because Scott is DAMN entertaining and not one of you Corporate shills.
      I disagree with the way you split the Freedom of Speech hair. That hair can not be split. If you dont like whats on TV change the channel. If you dont like Scott dont follow him. If you need a safe space to lie to employees and customers it will not happen here! Vegas has been hurt enough! If you want to infringe on my freedoms and what I consider entertainment you may belong somewhere else… Chaz zone??

    2. Michael Bluejay

      “Coop, what about Sahara’s “freedoms” or at least right to privacy.”

      Most people are aware that public figures don’t enjoy a broad right to privacy. As the Journal of Constitutional Law said in 2016, “In the United States, because of the widely accepted belief in the ‘right to know’ information of public concern, freedom of speech generally over- rides public figures’ right to privacy. As a result, public figures have almost no right to privacy….”

      Corporations are generally regarded as public figures. (e.g., “Like other public figures, corporations affect public affairs, take political positions, engage in matters of pub- lic concern and controversy, and have reputations. A foundational commitment of free speech law, perhaps the foundational commitment, is that public figures don’t and can’t own their reputations.” — Minnesota Law Review, 98:455]

      “Your assumption is what VV published is 100% truth.”

      It’s not an assumption, it’s objective fact. Scott said, among other things, “”Sahara’s closure has not been announced or confirmed.” What, you think that Sahara *did* announce or confirm that they’re closing?

      Scott also identified the idea of Sahara closing as a *rumor*. It’s 100% truth that it was a *rumor*.

  15. Scott

    Won’t be visiting Sahara any time in the near future, then. A shame, because I liked SLS and the more relaxed atmosphere. Rooms were good too, and I wanted to see the place after the re-branding.

    Now, there’s no way I’m going there.

    Keep up the good fight, Scott.

  16. Michael Bluejay

    “I will not share anything positive about them moving forward.”

    Ditto for me. As I said in another thread, I started a “Vegas Hall of Shame” on my site specifically to induct Sahara is the inaugural member. My wife was worried about that: “If they sued Scott, why wouldn’t they sue you?” It’s a fair question, but I’m willing to take the risk. And if it happens, like Scott, I will fight back. Freedoms don’t really exist if you’re intimidated into not exercising them.

    And above all, I hate bullies.

    It would be funny if Sahara wasn’t actually struggling before, but the blowback from their suing a beloved local blogger is what wound up sinking them. Probably won’t happen that way, but I know they’re losing at least *some* customers, and in this economy, every customer is precious. They shot themselves in the foot on this one.

    I’m glad Scott’s fighting this and I sincerely hope he wins.

  17. J

    Sahara isn’t somewhere you wander into by chance. Didn’t they realise what a positive impact you had on the bits of their business that were good? Without your enthusiasm I’d have never known about or tried Bazaar Meats – which obviously led to multiple return visits. Now thanks to this ridiculous suit I’ll never set foot in the building again while under current ownership. I bet I’m not the only one.

  18. Michael Bluejay

    I decided to be more aggressive so I put a note discouraging people to stay at Sahara, in the header on every single page of my site (Easy Vegas). I intend to keep it there at least until the suit is settled one way or the other, possibly longer. But Sahara’s entry in the Hall of Shame will stay forever, unless they get new ownership.

    I also plan to alert senior management to this example of how their bullying has backfired on them.

    1. Scott Roeben Post author

      Thanks for staying engaged with this, as it’s consumed a hefty portion of my time lately, and I appreciate the support. The good news is four of the five counts have been withdrawn, we we’re headed in a good direction.


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