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Steve Wynn’s career in gaming officially comes to an end

Updated July 27, 2023 - 7:40 pm

The long saga of disgraced former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn has come to an end in Nevada.

The 81-year-old Wynn will no longer be involved in gaming in the state and is paying a $10 million fine for embarrassing Nevada’s casino industry following a 4-0 approval of a stipulation for settlement with the state by the Nevada Gaming Commission on Thursday.

The approved settlement ends a 3½-year dispute between Wynn and the Nevada Gaming Control Board after the board directed the attorney general’s office in October 2019 to issue a complaint accusing Wynn of sexual harassment of women employed at the 18-year-old Strip resort.

Wynn has continually denied ever harassing anyone and, when the settlement was reached last week, could not be reached for comment about it.

Largest fine ever

The $10 million fine he must pay within three business days is the largest ever assessed against an individual licensee. His former company and executives already have paid more than $55 million in fines to regulatory bodies in Nevada and Massachusetts involving the harassment allegations and the company’s failure to address them.

Wynn, now a resident of Florida, did not attend the commission’s meeting in Carson City. Two of his attorneys attended the hearing, but did not address the commission.

“I’m delighted that we’re in a position where all parties are apparently wishing to move forward and recommending to the commission to accept the stipulation,” Commissioner Brian Krolicki said minutes before delivering the motion to accept the settlement. “For the benefit of the gaming industry and our role as regulators and Nevada, what’s before us today is welcome by me and I will vote for it.”

The only clarity requested in the matter was over how the negotiators reached the amount of the fine.

First Assistant Attorney General Craig Newby, who reviewed the case for the commission, explained that after negotiations “over an extended period of time,” the parties concluded that a $10 million fine was appropriate.

Commissioner Rosa Solis-Rainey said before the vote that she appreciated the efforts of all involved with bringing the matter to a close.

“It’s a huge blemish on the industry and while Mr. Wynn made some incredible contributions, the nature of the allegations that were made and the history behind them, in my mind, warrant at least the amount of the fine that was negotiated, so I don’t have a problem with the amount,” she said. “I think it is in everybody’s best interest to move forward so I will be in support of it as well.”

Minutes after the hearing that lasted less than 10 minutes, Gaming Control Board Chairman Kirk Hendrick and board member George Assad issued prepared statements on the hearing’s outcome.

“The Gaming Control Board is satisfied that resolving this matter with Mr. Wynn protects the gaming industry and the citizens of Nevada,” Hendrick said. “Closing this dark chapter in Nevada’s gaming history allows more time for the board to continue effectively and efficiently regulating Nevada’s most important industry.”

Assad, a retired judge, added, “The gaming fine paid by Mr. Wynn is the largest ever levied against an individual in the state of Nevada. The magnitude of the fine, along with other conditions in the stipulation for settlement and order, demonstrate how serious the board and commission took the allegations in the disciplinary complaint.”

Commission Chairwoman Jennifer Togliatti conducted the proceeding, but didn’t vote, citing a potential conflict of interest.

Settlement terms

Under the terms of the settlement, Wynn did not admit to or deny wrongdoing. He waived a hearing on the matter and will “remain entirely removed from any direct or indirect affiliation, financing, consultation, promotional advertising in any form of media or licensing agreement in the Nevada gaming industry.”

He’s allowed to have casual financial investments in companies of up to 5 percent ownership of a company’s shares.

The Gaming Control Board filed the sexual harassment complaint 1½ years after Wynn resigned his executive roles with Wynn Resorts, divested his financial interest in the company and moved out of a villa in which he resided at the resort in early 2018.

Several publications, including The Wall Street Journal, had reported complaints from female employees about sexual harassment in January 2018, but Wynn repeatedly denied ever harassing anyone. In the weeks following publication of the allegations, Wynn resigned his company positions as well as his role of finance chair for the Republican National Committee.

In February 2019, the Gaming Commission fined Wynn Resorts $20 million — the highest ever assessed against a company in Nevada — for failing to respond to harassment complaints raised by several women. Three months later, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which at the time was deliberating about granting a license for Wynn Resorts to open Encore Boston Harbor, fined the company $35 million and then-CEO Matt Maddox $500,000 for failing to act on harassment complaints.

Encore Boston Harbor eventually opened in June 2019, and the scandal resulted in Wynn Resorts overhauling its board of directors, with highly respected gaming industry leader Phil Satre selected as the board’s chairman and Betsy Atkins, Dee Dee Myers and Wendy Webb chosen as independent directors in 2018.

The five-count, 23-page complaint against Wynn filed by the Control Board in October 2019 said its investigation found that there were harassment complaints that began as early as 2005 when Steve Wynn was first licensed as an executive with Wynn Resorts.

Rio and Fontainebleau licensing approved

Earlier in the meeting, commissioners unanimously approved licensing for the new owner of the off-Strip Rio, as well as the towering Fontainebleau due to open in December.

Commissioners approved findings of suitability for New York-based Dreamscape Companies Inc. executives Eric Birnbaum and Thomas Ellis for the Rio and a preliminary finding of suitability for Bowtie Hospitality LLC executives Jeffrey Soffer and Brett Mufson for the Fontainebleau.

The Rio casino operation, currently managed by Caesars Entertainment Inc., was acquired from Caesars by Dreamscape in December 2019 with the existing lease agreement ending Oct. 1. That’s when Dreamscape will take over operations. In the meantime, Dreamscape is investing $350 million in a redevelopment plan for the Rio that will begin next month. Birnbaum said work would begin on refurbishing all the 1,500 suites in the resort’s Ipanema tower one floor at a time so that the property can remain open during the work.

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

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