Sahara Las Vegas sues blogger over closure claims

An exterior view of the Sahara hotel-casino Friday, Jan. 10, 2020.

The owner of the Sahara has filed a defamation lawsuit against a Las Vegas blogger over a post saying the north Strip property would be permanently closing next month.

In a suit filed Thursday in Clark County District Court, Las Vegas Resort Holdings claims that Scott Roeben, operator of the Vital Vegas, misrepresented the resort when writing that the Sahara “could close” in September.

Roeben, a Las Vegas resident, last month wrote: “Rumor is Sahara Las Vegas could close permanently in September. Permanently.”

Asking for compensation in excess of $15,000, Las Vegas Resort Holdings said in the lawsuit that Roeben’s post caused “widespread fallout,” including worry among employees over job loss, calls from concerned travelers from multiple states with upcoming accommodations at Sahara, and a “lack of confidence” from vendors and business partners.

Roeben said the details for his post came from a source with knowledge of the Sahara’s workings and that couldn’t unmask the source.

“How is it defamation to say that a casino that’s in trouble is in trouble?” Roeben said. “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 said he’s never pretended to be a “traditional journalist,” but rather is someone with numerous connections in the city who likes to put some of what he hears in the public arena.

“I’m not making these things up out of thin air,” Roeben said. “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.”

The Sahara issued a statement Friday calling the rumor that it might close in September a “baseless claim.”

Sahara officials reached out to Roeben before the lawsuit was filed in an attempt to get him to “correct the record,” but weren’t satisfied with a revised blog post.

“It is clear at this point that Mr. Roeben, through Vital Vegas, seemingly takes joy in continuing to make false claims,” the statement reads. “His conduct not only has harmed Sahara, but has caused a great deal of harm to the Vegas community, including our team members, our business, and valued guests, who have been through so much in the wake of COVID-19.”