Las Vegas-based Wynn is awaiting a ruling from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission any day now on whether it should be allowed to retain its gaming license in Massachusetts.
The stakes are high for the company because it is planning to open its $2.6 billion resort, Encore Boston Harbor in June and already has begun hiring employees and taking reservations.
The five-member commission is in closed-door deliberations about whether to find Wynn suitable to keep the license it received in 2015.
The company’s suitability is in question after an investigation by the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau determined that former Wynn Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn failed to disclose a $7.5 million settlement payment in 2005 to a woman who said he forced her to have sex with him. Steve Wynn has denied harassing anyone.
Several executives also failed to investigate reports of several harassment allegations over several years.
What editorial writers are saying about what the Massachusetts Gaming Commission should decide about Wynn Resorts:
The CEO has much to rethink and regret. He said he is deeply sorry for failing to take the allegations seriously, but how much credit can we give his contrition? He says the company has changed fundamentally, with new executives who get it, and policies to keep workers safer.
But why should we trust him as a change agent? If we take him at his word that he had no complicity in covering up Wynn’s misdeeds, then he appears to have been woefully out of touch. Is a company led by somebody so easily gotten around the kind you want running a $2.6 billion casino? Especially when the hopes of so many in the Commonwealth depend on its success?
In the end, it is those hopes that will save the Everett Casino for Wynn Resorts. The best argument for allowing the company to keep its lucrative license is now being made, not by Wynn officials, but by the amber Shangri-La that has risen on the Mystic River — and by the thousands of workers planning on working there come June.
This was always how it was going to be, once the license was awarded and ground was broken. The commission may demand Maddox’s departure, and extract a hefty fine from the company, as Nevada did. But there’s no going back.
You have to wonder at this point if other shoes will drop. But the commissioners have little choice but to make this work.
They — and the rest of us — are playing at Wynn Resorts’ table. They have to keep rolling the dice.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which conducted its own investigation, shouldn’t revoke the casino license here either. If the company were unrepentant and unreformed, no amount of lost tax revenue or jobs would be enough to save them. But that’s not the reality. With two exceptions — more on that later — the company has severed ties with its past.
Nor would it be fair to revoke the license because the commission wasn’t informed of sexual misconduct allegations when Wynn initially applied in 2013. With the benefit of hindsight, the company agrees that the (now former) executives who knew about them should have informed the commission, since these allegations against the company’s founder bear on the organization’s character and integrity.
The casino is scheduled to open June 23 — it’s already taking hotel reservations — and the commission should allow it to open on time, under its current ownership and local management team, with payment of a large fine that should be put to an appropriate use to combat sexual misconduct in the workplace.
As for the suitability of Wynn Resorts, the evidence gathered by the investigation isn’t damning enough to apply the corporate death penalty. A sizable fine for the company — and some kind of personal consequences for two of the qualifiers — would best balance fairness, accountability, and the state’s desire to keep the casino on track.
Here’s what I think our gambling regulators should do:
■ Fine Wynn $100 million, which would take a real bite out of the company’s bottom line and send a clear message that we aren’t homers like the Nevada commission.
■ Let Wynn keep its Everett license — on a conditional basis.
■ Establish a probationary period — 5 to 7 years — during which the state collects an extra 5 percent of the Everett casino’s net gaming revenue. This would be on top of the 25 percent the state will get once Encore opens.
■ Set up a process under which Wynn could earn back a portion of that added assessment by being a stellar corporate citizen. The criteria would need to be determined, but could include diversity goals and comprehensive sexual-harassment reporting and enforcement procedures.
■ Finally, I am torn on this, but I think CEO Matt Maddox should be required to step down. Before he succeeded Steve Wynn in February 2018, Maddox had been the company’s president since 2013 and Wynn’s right-hand man. He says he was unaware of the allegations against his boss until shortly before they were aired by The Wall Street Journal, and neither Nevada nor Massachusetts regulators have shown otherwise. But I find it hard to believe that Maddox, given his role as corporate consigliere, was completely in the dark. If he didn’t know anything, he should have, and his resignation would cement the company’s claim that it has cleaned house.
This is obviously a back-of-the-envelope proposal, and details would need to be worked out.
Steve Wynn and most of his cronies are gone from the company. Wynn Resorts doesn’t deny it screwed up. It’s time to take it to the woodshed and move on.
Despite its tough talk on transparency and tough questions to Wynn executives, the commission will almost certainly approve the Encore Boston license. Why not be truly transparent then? Make the case that it’s too late and too detrimental to the state to change horses now, but that steep fines and rigid oversight will be applied. After all, the Gaming Commission is not without leverage.
But the true long shot bet, against all odds, would have the commission refuse to grant Wynn the license. That’s one bet we won’t make.