Massachusetts casino panel: Wynn settlement was kept from us

By STEVE LeBLANC Markets Associated Press

Following sexual abuse allegations against casino magnate Steve Wynn, a Massachusetts Gaming Commission investigator said Wednesday information about a $7.5 million settlement was kept from state officials when they were reviewing the suitability of his company for a casino license in 2013.

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Karen Wells made the statement as the commission opened its investigation into a report by The Wall Street Journal that a number of women said they were harassed or assaulted by Wynn. One case led to a $7.5 million settlement.

Gambling regulators in Nevada said Tuesday they also are investigating Wynn.

The 76-year-old Wynn, whose company is building a $2.4 billion casino outside Boston, has strongly denied the allegations, which he attributed to a campaign led by his ex-wife. He resigned Saturday as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.

Wells said she corroborated with lawyers from Wynn Resorts "that there was in fact a settlement and that it was not disclosed to investigators on advice of counsel." She said the settlement was not part of any court record.

"This was a private agreement and steps were taken to keep it from the public domain," she said.

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Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby called the allegations "appalling" but said that any decision, including possibly revoking the license, would be based on facts gleaned during the commission's ongoing probe. He said the commission would not be party to impugning anyone's character without clear proof, but also wouldn't tolerate behavior "that puts the confidence in the casino operations in our state at risk."

"The people of Massachusetts have the right to know what the hell happened here," he said.

In Massachusetts, the official licensee is Wynn MA LLC, a subsidiary of Wynn Resorts. It was awarded a 15-year license to operate the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino license. Wynn Boston Harbor is under construction in Everett outside Boston with a scheduled opening date of June 2019.

A spokesman for Wynn Boston Harbor said Wednesday in statement: "We respect the process outlined by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and will cooperate fully with the investigation. Our construction is on schedule for a 2019 opening and continues to create more than 4,000 local union trade jobs."

Both Wynn Resorts and Steve Wynn were both found suitable by gaming commission investigators. Wells said that gaming suitability investigations involving individuals "typically includes an analysis of that individual's criminal history" including any ties to organized crime or corruption.

But she said the commission has the right to consider any information, including information related to "honesty, integrity, good character or reputation."

In their 2013 report, the Massachusetts investigators said they spoke to several of Wynn's references who described him as "highly ethical," and "a perfectionist who is passionate about everything he does."

According to the 2011 state law that legalized casino gambling in Massachusetts, a casino license is considered a "revocable privilege," and can be suspended or revoked under certain conditions, including a finding that the licensee was "unsuitable to operate a gaming establishment."

In Nevada, state gambling regulations provide grounds for disciplinary action if any activity from the licensed operator, its agents or employees is deemed "inimical to the public health, safety, morals, good order and general welfare" of Nevada residents or discrediting of the state and its gambling industry.

Regulators could potentially levy fines against the company, place conditions on its license or even revoke it.

On Monday, Republican Gov. Charlie Baker called the allegations "awful and appalling," and said if true, "Wynn would fail to meet the suitability standard under the state gaming law."

Asked if such a finding by the commission could derail the casino, Baker said it would be up to Wynn Resorts to make a decision on how to proceed.