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Lawsuit claims Resorts World permitted illegal gamblers at casino

Updated October 11, 2023 - 6:04 pm

A federal lawsuit has been filed in U.S. District Court in Nevada accusing the former top executive of Resorts World Las Vegas of ignoring information that felons were illegally gambling at its casino.

Robert “RJ” Cipriani seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages in the lawsuit filed Monday by California attorney Marshall Cole.

The six-count lawsuit accuses Resorts World Las Vegas and former President and Chief Operating Officer Scott Sibella of negligence, civil conspiracy and intentional infliction of emotional distress against Cipriani, who said he has gambled at the 3,500-room Strip resort since it opened in June 2021.

Sibella left the company in mid-September, and representatives of Resorts World said he was terminated for violating company policy and the terms of his employment agreement.

On Sept. 15, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, parent company of Resorts World, said Chief Financial Officer Peter LaVoie was named the new CEO.

Before opening Resorts World, Sibella spent eight years as president of MGM Grand Las Vegas.

Sibella had no comment about the lawsuit, but his attorney, Las Vegas lawyer J. Colby Williams, issued an emailed statement.

“While we are still reviewing Mr. Cipriani’s complaint, it appears to be the latest rehashing of allegations against Resorts World and Mr. Sibella that have been thoroughly investigated and determined to be baseless by Nevada gaming authorities and others,” Williams’ statement said. “Now that Mr. Cipriani has chosen to pursue these matters in federal court, we look forward to establishing their lack of merit in that forum as well.”

Cipriani has been involved in alleged disputes at Resorts World before and are noted in his lawsuit.

In May, Clark County prosecutors dismissed robbery and larceny charges against Cipriani in two separate incidents that occurred last November at Resorts World. In one case, prosecutors accused Cipriani of snatching a cellphone from professional gambler Robert Alexander and threatening him and his son. Earlier that day, Cipriani also was accused of improperly changing a blackjack bet and was later charged with committing a fraudulent act in a gaming establishment.

Previous allegations

The Nevada Gaming Control Board in February closed a nearly year-old investigation into allegations made against Sibella and determined them to be unfounded.

Regulators investigated after receiving information in April 2022 about allegations that high roller Brandon Sattler made in a sworn deposition in a fraud litigation lawsuit.

In his fraud litigation testimony, Sattler connected Sibella to convicted bookmaker David Stroj, who violated terms of a three-year supervised release after he was sentenced in a 2018 federal case. Sattler said Stroj held an ownership position in Tacos El Cabron, a food outlet within Resorts World. Stroj’s father, at the time, was a manager at Tacos El Cabron, which closed later in the year.

The lawsuit said that Cipriani, who had gambled nearly 500 hours at Resorts World since its opening, observed Stroj playing blackjack at the casino’s tables as late as January 2022 and reported his observations to federal probation officer Tina Neiman, the FBI and the Gaming Control Board.

After the investigation, Stroj admitted that he gambled there through the second half of 2021. At the time of his 2018 conviction stemming from a $10 million money laundering and illegal gambling network, Stroj was already a three-time convicted felon “with a severe penchant for organized crime,” the lawsuit said.

If the allegations were determined to be true, Sibella and Resorts World could have been subjected to disciplinary action for working with a convicted illegal gambler.

Gambler alleges Sibella tried to silence him

Though the Control Board investigation found no wrongdoing by Sibella, Cipriani continued his allegations in the lawsuit, which contains text message exchanges with Resorts World employees and a written appeal to Genting’s top executive, K.T. Lim, asking him to do something about Sibella allowing illegal players to wager.

“Sibella is personally familiar with Mr. Cipriani. Mr. Cipriani has notified Sibella on multiple occasions of the continued presence of gamblers with criminal records, pending criminal charges, or who are otherwise the focus of law enforcement investigation at RWLV’s tables,” the lawsuit said.

“No action was ever taken on such information. Instead, RWLV shifted its focus to silence Mr. Cipriani — whom RWLV and Sibella deem a vocal patron revealing and publicizing RWLV’s inconvenient truths.”

The lawsuit said Sibella made efforts to quiet Cipriani, who has posted accusations against the company on social media under the name Robin Hood 702.

“Sibella and RWLV’s motivation behind relentlessly pursuing criminal charges against Mr. Cipriani is clear,” the lawsuit said. “Nothing was more important to Sibella and RWLV than stifling Mr. Cipriani’s ability to speak on the improprieties and criminal activity permeating RWLV’s premises. These are the same improprieties that are now front and center in the news and on information and belief are the exact reasons why Sibella was terminated from his position.”

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on X.

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