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Wynn Resorts prepares for adjudicatory hearing in Massachusetts

The long wait for Wynn Resorts Ltd. to learn its status as a gaming licensee in Massachusetts is nearly over, with an adjudicatory hearing scheduled to begin Tuesday in Boston.

But the wait Wynn executives will have for a final decision about the company’s planned June opening of its $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor resort in Everett after the hearing ends may seem even longer.

That’s the time frame that will occur between the end of hearing, scheduled Wednesday or Thursday, and when the Massachusetts Gaming Commission delivers a written decision based on deliberations about what the five members hear in the days ahead. Commissioners have said it could take days or weeks to reach a conclusion.

The hearing is all a part of the company’s response to accusations that founder and former Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn sexually harassed women employees at his Las Vegas resorts over several years. He has denied the allegations.

The accusations surfaced in the media in January 2018. By February, Steve Wynn had resigned and by April he had divested all his financial holdings in the company and moved out of a villa he had lived in at the resort.

As far as the state of Massachusetts is concerned, Steve Wynn is no longer associated with the company and is no longer under commission scrutiny.

But the company itself is still under review because when Wynn Resorts was vetted for licensing suitability by regulators in 2013 and 2014, no one told commissioners about a $7.5 million settlement payment made to a manicurist who worked at Wynn Las Vegas in 2005. It’s believed the payment was made personally by Steve Wynn to the manicurist, who accused him of forcing her to have sex with him.

Steve Wynn denies all accusations of harassment and forced sex, blaming his former wife, Elaine Wynn, of disclosing the information during bitter divorce proceedings. Elaine Wynn denies having done that.

Commissioners want to know who knew about the settlement payment and when, and why it wasn’t brought up when the company was being scrutinized in 2014.

The commission is anticipating a large crowd when the adjudicatory hearing begins Tuesday at 7 a.m. PDT, so it has made arrangements to have the hearing at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. As a result of the change of venue, the commission won’t be livestreaming the hearing, as it does with most of its meetings.

At the beginning of the hearing, commissioners are expected to release a redacted version of a report compiled by the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau and then receive presentations from investigators and Wynn Resorts executives.

The commission also produced a list of witnesses it is requiring at the hearing. Among them are Karen Wells, the lead investigator in the case, who Steve Wynn sued to block information from going into the report on the grounds that it was privileged attorney-client information. Three other investigators also are on the list.

From the Wynn Resorts side are several executives: CEO Matt Maddox, chief counsel Ellen Whittemore, Chief Financial Officer Craig Billings and senior vice presidents Robert DiSalvio (development), Rose Huddleston (human resources), Jacqui Krum (general counsel), James Stern (corporate security) and Brian Gullbrants (operations at Encore Boston Harbor).

Wynn also has been asked to have eight other members of its board of directors, including Chairman Phil Satre, present at the hearing.

One other person on the witness list: Elaine Wynn.

Maddox and Satre had some recent experience before regulators, making a brief presentation to the Nevada Gaming Commission in February when the state Gaming Control Board filed a 10-count complaint against the company for damaging the state gaming industry’s reputation in the sexual harassment allegations. It only took about 30 minutes of public deliberations before the Nevada commission agreed to assess a $20 million fine against Wynn Resorts — the largest fine in history from that board.

The Massachusetts board is expected to deliberate longer, and it’s unclear what kind of a penalty, if any, it will agree to.

For Wynn Resorts, it’s going to be a long wait.

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

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