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Casino Claims Right to Dean Martin’s Image

LAS VEGAS (CN) - The owner of the former Sahara Hotel and Casino wants court affirmation that it can use a large image of Dean Martin on the casino's carpet.

Now known as the SLS Hotel & Casino and owned by Stockbridge/SBE Holdings, the remodeled casino has a larger-than-life image of Dean Martin and other celebrities in the carpet of its lobby.

The Sahara opened in 1952 and has "great cultural significance" to Las Vegas and its history, Stockbridge says in the Jan. 23 lawsuit in Clark County Court.

Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr. and others performed at the hotel, and "Dean Martin also frequented the casino" and "performed at the Sahara ... as part of the 'Rat Pack,'" according to the complaint.

Stockbridge claims that appearances by the Rat Pack "have cultural and historical significance" and that the hotels and casinos that hosted them are known as "'Rat Pack' hotel-casinos." It claims the Sahara was one of the last Rat Pack hotel-casinos when it closed in 2011.

When the property reopened as the SLS in 2014, Stockbridge says, it installed carpets featuring images "reminiscent of the Sahara's past."

The SLS claims it uses Martin's image strictly for decoration and not in products, merchandise or goods or for advertising or other commercial purposes.

On Dec. 4, 2014, Stockbridge says, it received a letter from Joel Smith, trustee for the Dean Martin Family Trust, saying the image infringed upon Dean Martin's right of publicity, which now is owned by the trust.

The casino responded by saying the "singular use of a photograph in the carpeting for décor celebrating a part of the Sahara's and Las Vegas' history does not infringe Dean Martin's right of publicity" and is not a commercial use.

Smith disagreed, and demanded $50,000 for a license fee and threatened to sue the casino if it did not pay the license fee or remove the image.

So the casino sued Smith and the Dean Martin Family Trust. It seeks declaratory judgment that its use of Dean Martin's image does not infringe upon Martin's right of publicity. It also seeks attorney's fees and costs.

It is represented by Michael J. McCue, with Lewis Roca & Rothgerber.

Dean Martin was a popular singer, actor and television star. He had many hit records, including "Everybody Loves Somebody," and teamed with comedian Jerry Lewis in several hit comedies. He died in 1995.

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