Former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn’s Nevada lawsuit is still causing headaches for Massachusetts gaming regulators.
After more than two hours of legal arguments Friday, occasionally peppered with prickly accusations, a Clark County District Court judge stood firm on a temporary order that effectively blocks a suitability hearing in Massachusetts.
The temporary order preventing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission from releasing its investigative report on Wynn Resorts Ltd.’s handling of sexual harassment claims involving Steve Wynn remained in effect after the hearing. Wynn has denied harassment claims.
Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez extended the restraining order and advised attorneys for Wynn, the resort company and the commission to resolve differences on making the documents and transcripts public that Steve Wynn believes are privileged attorney-client communications.
Attorneys are scheduled to provide a status update to the court Jan. 11.
It’s unclear how Friday’s courtroom maneuverings will affect Massachusetts’ efforts to conduct an adjudicatory hearing on Wynn Resorts’ licensing in that state. Commissioners initially had hoped to conduct a hearing in late November or early December, but that has been indefinitely postponed since Steve Wynn filed the six-count breach-of-contract lawsuit against the commission and its lead investigator, Karen Wells, on Dec. 5.
A spokeswoman said the commission is continuing efforts to conduct its suitability hearing for Wynn Resorts, which plans to open its $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor project in June.
“The MGC will now closely review the judge’s ruling and assess its overall impact on the investigation,” a statement emailed Friday said. “We remain committed to advancing this process and identifying the appropriate next steps to expedite the completion of Wynn’s suitability review. The MGC has a public meeting scheduled for next Thursday, and this litigation development will be on the agenda.”
‘Did nothing wrong’
In a statement issued late Friday, Wynn Resorts indicated the company has done nothing wrong in the case. It, too, was named in Steve Wynn’s lawsuit.
“We firmly believe that the company did nothing wrong in cooperating with the MGC’s investigation and that the documents and information in question do not violate Mr. Wynn’s attorney-client privileges,” the statement said. “The company will continue to defend itself in this matter.”
Much of the legal wrangling Friday involved whether information investigators received in interviews and depositions from Steve Wynn’s attorneys during the course of the 11-month investigation were privileged communications.
Because some of those documents could be confidential and are sealed, attorneys refrained from disclosing details about them and referred to them by document attachment numbers. Attorneys frequently referred to a U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission discrimination complaint filed against Wynn Resorts that was adjudicated in 2014. It’s unclear how that complaint ties in to the Massachusetts report or alleged sexual harassment.
At one point, an attorney for the commission referred to Steve Wynn as “a scorned plaintiff trying by hook or crook to gain some measure of control over the (Investigations and Enforcement Bureau) report.” He said Steve Wynn’s complaint was designed “to intimidate and bully the investigator” with “incendiary, hyperbolic and offensive characterizations of Ms. Wells.”
But Steve Wynn’s attorney said it was Wells who was intimidating, coming to Nevada as a regulator who could do whatever she wanted.
“I think it was done to show Nevada that Massachusetts can do it better, that Nevada should have been on top of this and it wasn’t, so we’re going to show you how it’s done,” he said. “If anybody was intimidating and bullying, it was Ms. Wells from the outset.”