Steve Wynn isn’t out of the woods with gaming regulators

Just because Steve Wynn has stepped down from his leadership positions at Wynn Resorts Ltd., has sold all the shares he owned in the company and settled legal differences with his ex-wife, Elaine, don’t think for a minute that gaming regulators are through with him.

Judging from the tone of statements made by Wynn’s representatives earlier this month, Wynn believes his actions have cleared him of regulatory scrutiny.

A letter Wynn’s attorney wrote to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission essentially says, “I’m out, so quit bothering me.” But the response from Massachusetts, in essence, says, “You’re out when we say you’re out.”

The March 27 letter from attorney Brian Kelly said, “As Mr. Wynn is no longer a qualifier of any commission licensee, there is no longer any regulatory or statutory justification to continue the commission’s inquiry into Mr. Wynn’s suitability as a qualifier of the commission. The commission no longer has jurisdiction over Mr. Wynn — he is a private Nevada citizen unaffiliated with Wynn Resorts LLC or any commission licensee.”

Kelly told commissioners Wynn would no longer respond to any of the commission’s requests for information in connection with a suitability investigation.

When the commission took up the question of determining the status of Wynn’s current relationship with Massachusetts, Executive Director Ed Bedrosian spelled out how the state’s regulators are going to proceed. Regulators will schedule a hearing in May to consider the question of whether Wynn is truly out, but they won’t delve into other issues critical to the company’s continued presence in Massachusetts.

“The commission’s decision will be limited to the question of whether or not Steve Wynn is still a qualifier. The commission will not consider or make a decision on Steve Wynn’s continued suitability. The commission will not consider or make a determination, based upon the evidence and testimony provided at the hearing, whether Wynn Resorts Ltd. or Wynn MA LLC is suitable to participate in or hold a gaming license. The commission’s decision at the hearing will not end the current investigation by the Investigation Enforcement Bureau as to the allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against Steve Wynn or the handling of those allegations by Wynn Resorts Ltd. and its officers and directors. The hearing will also not consider whether other employees, board members, shareholders or other Wynn companies should remain as qualifiers.”

Current Wynn CEO Matt Maddox has done just about everything he can to sever all connections with the company’s founder and namesake. That’s why company officials were happy that Steve and Elaine Wynn settled their breach-of-contract lawsuit last week. No one wanted the unpredictability of what could emerge in open court.

Steve Wynn’s representatives also expressed relief that the settlement means finality to the case.

“Mr. Wynn expressed gratification that he was able to put all of the personal unpleasantness of the last few years between he and Ms. Wynn behind him,” an email from his camp said.

But is it really behind him?

When Massachusetts conducts its hearing in May it will be interesting to see if Steve Wynn is represented considering the company still has a huge investment in Boston. Despite all the Wynn Boston Harbor sale rumors, the company is still important to the state regardless of whose name is on the building.

And then, there’s the matter of potentially disciplining the company for the embarrassment it caused for the state and the industry. In Nevada, where an investigation is continuing, regulators could consider a Regulation 5 complaint that Wynn’s recent actions “would reflect or tend to reflect discredit upon the State of Nevada or the gaming industry.”

No, Steve Wynn and the company aren’t out of the woods yet.

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

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