Wynn investigations in Nevada, Massachusetts drawing to close

Investigations into Wynn Resorts Ltd. and its founder, Steve Wynn, are nearing completion in both Massachusetts and Nevada, with a growing possibility that Silver State gaming regulators will finish first.

The investigations in both states began in February, shortly after accusations surfaced that the company’s founder sexually harassed and assaulted some of his female employees over several decades.

Steve Wynn has denied all the accusations but opted to resign his executive and corporate board positions and sell all his financial holdings in the company.

Company representatives say they continue to support the regulatory processes in both states.

The stakes are high for the company because Wynn Resorts is building a $2.5 billion resort on the Mystic River in Everett, Massachusetts, near Boston.

It’s been assumed that Massachusetts would make its findings public first because Nevada investigators had more witnesses to interview. Massachusetts also may have been slowed by the surprise resignation of Gaming Commission Chairman Stephen Crosby. Last week, the five-member commission formally approved the appointment of Commissioner Gayle Cameron as interim chairwoman, but Gov. Charlie Baker has yet to appoint a replacement for Crosby.

The regulatory processes and how regulators will address their findings are vastly different in the two states.

In Massachusetts, the commission’s general counsel, Catherine Blue, outlined the procedure for a public adjudicatory hearing.

Blue said the hearing would start with a report from the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau. Commissioners can take testimony from witnesses, including Wynn Resorts representatives. But Blue stressed that members of the public would be able to submit their views.

Blue said the commission could call a hearing over several days or have it all in one day.

At the conclusion of the hearing, the commission would gather in a closed session to deliberate over its course of action.

In Nevada, which has a two-tiered regulatory system, the three-member state Gaming Control Board has the authority to meet in closed sessions to discuss matters of litigation. Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris explained that the board would consider information from Control Board investigators and determine whether any regulatory violations occurred and if disciplinary action is warranted.

Through the state attorney general’s office, the Control Board would issue a complaint to a licensee, which can negotiate a stipulation and settlement. It’s then up to the five-member Nevada Gaming Commission to consider the outcome. In essence, the Control Board acts as a prosecutor and the commission, the judge and jury.

State regulations require the investigative report to be confidential, but key facts are disclosed in the Control Board’s complaint, a public document.

An investigative hearing could occur if the commission rejects a settlement or disagrees with the discipline sought by the Control Board.

Another key difference in the Massachusetts and Nevada processes involves Steve Wynn. In Massachusetts, he’s been removed from the license as a “qualifier.” In Nevada, the Control Board has placed an administrative hold on him, meaning he can’t surrender or terminate the license pending the outcome of the investigation.

The two different processes are expected to play out in the next couple of weeks.

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

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