Casino boss Sheldon Adelson has lost the $60m libel lawsuit he filed against a political organization for repeating allegations that he condoned a prostitution ring at Las Vegas Sands’ Macau casinos. In August 2012, noted Republican party backer Adelson sued the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) for reprinting the allegations, which first surfaced in the wrongful termination suit filed by former Sands China CEO Steve Jacobs.
During the 2012 US presidential election campaign, the NJDC’s website urged Republican nominee Mitt Romney and other GOP candidates not to accept “dirty” and “tainted” monetary contributions from Adelson. In doing so, the NJDC cited a mainstream media report containing Jacobs’ allegations. On Monday, US District Judge J. Paul Oetken said Adelson’s attorneys hadn’t proven that the NJDC’s actions were malicious and that the statements didn’t amount to libel because the imprecise terms “dirty” and “tainted” represented protected expressions of opinion. Oetken also said the linked article in question came via a “reputable” news organization, which precluded a finding of liability.
Adding insult to injury, Oetken said Adelson’s suit appeared intended to stifle free speech, and as a penalty, Oetken ordered Adelson to pay the NJDC’s court costs. As is their tradition, Adelson’s attorneys are refusing to take ‘no’ for an answer and will likely appeal the ruling. If there’s a plus side here for Adelson, it’s that the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) had also reprinted Jacobs’ allegations, but Adelson’s growling prompted them to issue a formal apology, a decision that probably has them feeling very sheepish today.
SANDS OWES SUEN ANOTHER $1M IN LEGAL FEES
Mondays aren’t proving particularly favorable for Adelson’s legal eagles. On the Monday before last, Clark County District Judge Rob Bare ordered Sands to pay Richard Suen $1m to cover his legal fees. Suen is the Chinese businessman who sued Sands for fees he claimed to be owed for allegedly helping Sands secure a casino license in Macau. In 2008, a Nevada court awarded Suen $43.8m, but Sands had that verdict overturned. Suen promptly filed a fresh suit, winning $70m in May, to which Bare added $31.6m in interest in August. Stop us if you’ve heard this one before, but Sands is appealing Bare’s decision.
SMOKE ‘EM IF YOU SLOT ‘EM
There may be one legal front in which Sands appears to be catching a break. Spain is reportedly mulling a compromise with its strict public smoking laws to permit some kind of carcinogenic inhalation to go on at Sands’ proposed EuroVegas resort casino in Madrid. Sands has been adamant that it expects an exemption from the law, with execs saying just last week that Sands wouldn’t go ahead with the project without assurances of an “adequate legal framework, which will not change with time.”
Spain’s Health Minister has since suggested that the government is cooking up a legislative rewrite that would allow casino-goers to smoke while gambling in special areas in which non-smokers and casino staff weren’t affected. In other words, smokers could play slots in certain enclosed areas, but table games would be off-limits. However, a digital feed of a live-dealer studio could theoretically be made available, or perhaps some variation of the ‘stadium’ style multi-station electronic baccarat tables that have proven so popular in Macau. Or maybe, now that Breaking Bad has finished filming, Sands can get a deal on a bunch of haz-mat suits its dealers can wear at special tables that use only translucent blue casino chips. Think outside the box, people…