weather icon Clear

Expensive Wynn monitor oversees problems already solved

Bless the Massachusetts Gaming Commission for trying to do the right thing, but it seems the hiring of an independent monitor to watch the Wynn Resorts Ltd. human resources department’s handling of sexual harassment complaints is a little late.

And expensive.

The commission last week ratified the hiring of a team of five attorneys from Washington-based Miller &Chevalier Chartered to serve as a monitor to ensure Wynn is in compliance with the commission’s orders on enforcing harassment policies.

In a memorandum to the commission, attorneys said they will “review the company’s design, implementation, enforcement, and effectiveness of human resources policies and procedures, with particular attention to communications and trainings on those policies and procedures.” They’ll also “evaluate and test the company’s internal reporting and communication channels and ensure that the response and investigation of such reports are independent and impartial.”

The hiring of the monitor, ordered in April, is in response to things that happened over three decades while Steve Wynn served as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts.

When the news media reported allegations against Steve Wynn — and he’s denied ever harassing anybody — he stepped away from the company, divested himself from ownership and cleared out his things from a villa in which he lived at the Las Vegas resort.

Company executives found to have looked the other way when the allegations surfaced were removed from the company. Board members who were friendly with Steve Wynn left and were replaced with independent members, including three high-profile women. One of the most respected executives in the gaming industry, Phil Satre, was named chairman of the board. Matt Maddox was elevated to CEO.

A new human resources manager was hired. Harassment reporting policies were dramatically revamped.

It’s a whole new company today from what it was two years ago.

Even after agreeing that Wynn Resorts was suitable to hold a gaming license in Massachusetts just in time for the June 23 opening of Encore Boston Harbor — and fining the company and Maddox a record $35.5 million — the commission decided to select a monitor to watch Wynn.

It’s like installing a security system at your house after all the household goods have been stolen.

And it’s an expensive security system. The five attorneys’ billable rates total $3,625 an hour. The Miller &Chevalier team indicated the first six months of the monitorship would cost Wynn Resorts — yes, it’s paying for it, not the commission — between $575,000 and $775,000 for between 850 and 1,150 hours of review of Wynn policies.

A commission memorandum indicated that should be the most expensive phase of the monitorship.

“Barring any anomalies, this first six-month period during which the baseline assessment will be conducted is expected to be the most intensive period of the monitorship,” the memo said. “After the first six months, a similar level of billable activity and spend is anticipated on an annual basis. Though not the highest or lowest cost relative to the other bidders, the review team concluded that the fiscal terms proposed by Miller &Chevalier were reasonable for the quality of services to be provided.”

Gaming industry analysts haven’t weighed in on how they assess the operation of the company as a result of the monitor being in place. Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan indicated local regulators may review some of the reports generated by the monitor, but they aren’t viewing operations any differently.

So why a monitor?

It seems that’s the way regulators approach issues in Massachusetts. There are other examples of how third parties were hired at a company’s expense to oversee public policy issues.

In 2018, the Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office required a monitor when Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Lahey Health System merged to form the Beth Israel Lahey Health System. In 2012, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved a merger between Northeast Utilities and NStar with the help of a monitor.

That might give Wynn some comfort, understanding that a monitor is the norm for the Bay State, but it’s clear the commission hasn’t reached a comfort level with the gaming industry that its Nevada counterparts have.

That’s one of the differences between the gaming industry of Nevada, where regulators tend to trust casino companies — trust built from an over 50-year relationship — and Massachusetts, where leaders are learning how the business works.

Wynn paid the price for violating that trust in Nevada with a record $20 million fine here.

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Business Videos
North Las Vegas company prepares for Mars - VIDEO
Robert Bigelow and his Bigelow Aerospace manufacturing facility played host to eight NASA astronauts and 60 engineers this week getting to know the company’s B330 autonomous, expandable space station. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas developer talks about a new apartment complex called “the yoU”
Frank Marretti lll, founder of G2 Capital Development, talks about his new apartment complex called “the yoU” near UNLV. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Steel cables will hoist roof at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Stainless steel cables are being put into place at Allegiant Stadium to begin the process of putting the roof on the 65,000-seat stadium in Las Vegas. Stadium Chief Operating Officer Don Webb explains how the cables will be used to get the roof put on the future home of the Raiders and UNLV football. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The last remaining Sigma Derby game in Las Vegas
Derek Stevens, owner of the D Las Vegas, talks about the last remaining Sigma Derby horse racing game in Las Vegas inside his casino floor. (Erik Verduzco/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich Review
Janine Blake of Las Vegas gives her review of the new Popeyes Spicy Chicken Sandwich at the restaurant’s location on west Bonanza Road on Thursday, Aug. 22, 2019,
SuperZoo 2019 takes over Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas
SuperZoo 2019 show for pet retailers brought pet products of all description to the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MSG Sphere at The Venetian to cost $1.2B plus
Scheduled to open in 2021, it is expected to be busier than Madison Square Garden in New York. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Favorite products from SuperZoo 2019
Some of the fun and interesting pet products on display at the SuperZoo in Las Vegas at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center. (L.E. Baskow/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Convention Day 3
The fashion trade show MAGIC, held Monday through Wednesday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MAGIC Las Vegas - Day One
The biannual MAGIC convention show opened Monday at the Las Vegas Convention Center. (Elizabeth Brumley/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Allegiant celebrates naming deal with tailgate party
Allegiant Air employees celebrate with a tailgate party after the company’s naming deal with the Raiders for the new Las Vegas stadium.
Nevada's sportsbook operators welcome competition
Sportsbook operators from near and far are looking to get into in the established Nevada market, experts say. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Get a first look of MSG Sphere construction in Las Vegas
Representatives of The Madison Square Garden Company give the first glimpse of progress Tuesday of the under-construction MSG Sphere — a first-of-its-kind performance venue with high-tech audio and visual capabilities.
There's a new place to play board games in Las Vegas
Matt Smiciklas, co-owner of Boarding School Games, talks about the new Las Vegas business that he co-owns with Emily Labejof. Dedicated tabletop gamers can choose from more than 500 games to play for free in-store. The doors open to the public Saturday, July 20, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Renovations at the STRAT
Analysts say the $140 million renovation project at The STRAT, formerly the known as the Stratosphere, could help the hotel-casino compete with the evolving north side of the Las Vegas Strip. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
SLS Las Vegas will become Sahara Las Vegas
Owner Alex Meruelo announced during a special event at the SLS Las Vegas that the hotel-casino will become Sahara Las Vegas in its next iteration. Meruelo said $150 million dollars will be spent to renovate the current property. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Aircraft hinge maker moves to "business friendly" Nevada
Doug Silva, president of Aircraft Hinge, Inc. in Las Vegas, makes every type of hinge for every type of airplane. Silva talks about his company and why he moved it to Nevada. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Daytime fireworks mark the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
The opening of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. included a three-minute fireworks show launched by Fireworks by Grucci Sunday, June 23, 2019. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @RickVelotta
Elaine Wynn talks about the opening of Encore Boston Harbor
Elaine Wynn, co-founder and largest shareholder of Wynn Resorts, talked during opening festivities of the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
People line hours ahead of opening for Encore Boston Harbor
Guests arrive as much as 17 hours early for the 10 a.m. opening of the $2.6 billion, 671-room resort in Everett, Mass. Sunday, June 23, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @reviewjournal.com
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms - Video
Allegiant Discusses Investments In Golf Course Software And Game Rooms.
Crews working 24/7 to complete Circa downtown - VIDEO
Owner Derek Stevens goal is to open the doors to the 1.25 million-square-foot project by December 2020. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)