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Massachusetts regulators face messy situation with Wynn license

The planned opening of Massachusetts’ largest casino resort, Encore Boston Harbor, is just six months away.

But at a time when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission should be setting a calendar for the final countdown, everything’s as messy as spilled chowder.

Under normal circumstances, the commission would be starting to run systems checks and drafting traffic management plans for the $2.6 billion resort, which is due to open in Everett, just outside Boston, the state’s largest population center.

But things in Massachusetts are far from normal.

Just last week, the state’s four gaming commissioners — the board has been one short since late September — were watching videos and PowerPoint presentations on the successful opening of MGM Springfield in August and getting an idea of the work that lies ahead for the Encore opening.

Meanwhile, commission attorneys were in Las Vegas negotiating with lawyers for Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Steve Wynn, trying to figure out how they can present an investigative report that is expected to show who at the company knew what and when about the allegations that Wynn harassed female employees.

At stake is whether Wynn Resorts can keep the gaming license it won in 2014. The company’s suitability is in question because no one disclosed a $7.5 million settlement payment to a Wynn employee when regulators were scrutinizing the company for licensing.

The investigation has been underway since January and has more to do with the nondisclosure of the settlement than the harassment allegations. Still, at this time, the people of Everett are in no mood to tolerate harassment.

When the commission gets around to conducting its adjudicatory hearing to consider whether Wynn Resorts is suitable to hold the license, it will happen not long after the community was rocked by sexual harassment allegations in its school district.

Everett’s school superintendent, Frederick Foresteire, was placed on paid administrative leave by the city’s school committee last week while being investigated in connection with multiple complaints of sexual harassment and discrimination by former employees.

How the prevailing attitudes in Everett will play into decisions reached by commissioners on whether Wynn should keep its license is the latest unknown in the saga that is closing in on being a year old.

The commission knows time is of the essence, so when Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez, citing her busy court calendar, said her two best options for a hearing were Jan. 2-4 or Feb. 19, the commission’s attorneys jumped at the earlier dates. That means a bounce in billable hours this holiday season as the attorneys rush this week to prepare their legal strategies.

While the lawyers prepare, the company has provided a glimpse of what its game plan might look like when the commission hearing finally occurs: to distance itself from Steve Wynn with the strong presence of its new chairman, Phil Satre, and the entire board of directors, which now includes four women.

Satre said last week that he and CEO Matt Maddox would carry the ball when the time comes.

The bigger question is, with everything going on the way it is, when will the time come?

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

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