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Wynn Resorts harassment saga is far from being over

Wynn Resorts Ltd. officials say they’re relieved that last week’s Nevada Gaming Commission hearing is over.

But should they be?

The commission’s 4-0 vote to order the company to pay a record $20 million fine ended a chapter on who in the company was aware of sexual harassment allegations against company founder Steve Wynn, but the saga is far from over.

Industry observers may continue to argue whether the punishment against the company fits the offense.

Some would argue the largest fine the commission has ever ordered is appropriate, and the notoriety of the company paying the highest fine ever is a record that will stand for a long time. Yet some say the amount is a slap on the wrist, since it only represents about 3.4 percent of the company’s annual net income.

Others argue the punishment isn’t being directed at the perpetrators and that it’s unfair that those still with the company — executives, employees and investors — must pay for the sins of the guilty.

While Wynn executives won’t have to answer questions on the topic with Nevada regulators anymore, they’re still not in the clear in Massachusetts, where the countdown to the Encore Boston Harbor opening is around 113 days.

Those who felt the fine against Wynn was too light should remember that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will soon have its turn.

It appears the commission is on the verge of issuing its investigative report now that the commission is nearing a settlement with Steve Wynn on the lawsuit he filed to block release of information he alleges was taken from attorney-client protected interviews. Attorneys were scheduled to be in court Monday to review that, but commissioners said Thursday they anticipate the case will be dismissed.

In Nevada, license revocation or suspension was off the table. It isn’t in Massachusetts.

Does the Massachusetts report have any information Nevada didn’t have? Will that state’s regulators take into account that the company has been ordered to pay a $20 million fine? Will they take a we-need-to-show-Nevada-how-we-do-things-in-New-England attitude into their behind-closed-doors deliberations?

Those are all questions soon to be resolved.

And what of Steve Wynn?

It appears he’s untouchable in Massachusetts, because the commission has already ruled he is no longer a “qualifier” to hold a license there. What will happen in Nevada is as yet unresolved.

Several weeks ago, Nevada Gaming Commission Chairman Tony Alamo said Steve Wynn and former executives no longer with the company are still under regulatory scrutiny, and the Gaming Control Board could authorize a complaint against Steve Wynn and others.

While the company won’t be scrutinized in that matter, it will be dragged into the conversation if a complaint is issued.

New Control Board Chairwoman Sandra Morgan hasn’t acknowledged whether an investigation of Steve Wynn is occurring, but it’s clear from Alamo’s comments that he’s anticipating the possibility.

If such a complaint surfaces, how will Steve Wynn fight back? Are more lawsuits in the future? And what of the former executives named in the Control Board’s complaint?

The Wynn Resorts matter may be over, but the tentacles connecting the company to former executives may live on for a long time.

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

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