SUITABILITY REVIEW CONTINUES, BUT PANEL RULES ON WYNN'S STATUS
By Colin A. Young
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE, BOSTON, MAY 7, 2018....Former casino magnate Steve Wynn is effectively divorced from the gambling empire he led and unless circumstances change in the next few weeks, he will be removed from the Massachusetts Gaming Commission's list of people who must be deemed suitable to hold a casino license.
The decision from the Gaming Commission represents a win for Wynn Resorts. Executives and attorneys from the company have argued before the Gaming Commission that the disgraced Wynn -- who resigned as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts after allegations of sexual assault and misconduct against him were published in the Wall Street Journal earlier this year -- no longer has any ties to the company.
Ten days after holding an adjudicatory hearing to determine whether Wynn should still be classified as a "qualifier" -- someone who has control or influence over a licensee and therefore must meet the state's suitability standards -- the commission on Monday issued an eight-page ruling that Wynn will cease to be a qualifier once two loose ends are tied up.
Wynn is no longer an executive at Wynn Resorts and divested his Wynn Resorts stocks, but he is still eligible to vote at the company's annual shareholders meeting, scheduled for May 16, because he still owned shares at the cut-off date for participation in the shareholders meeting. Wynn's attorney Brian Kelly told the Gaming Commission that Wynn does not intend to attend or vote at the shareholders meeting.
The commission's ruling notes that there "is no legal prohibition that bars Mr. Wynn from changing his mind and voting at that meeting," and has made its decision to remove Wynn as a qualifier contingent upon receiving verification that Wynn did not vote at the meeting.
The commission also wants Wynn and his former company to settle his in-house account, in which Wynn Resorts is holding about $200,000, before it stops considering Wynn a qualifier.
"Based on the evidence presented, Wynn Resorts has worked quickly to separate itself from Mr. Wynn including emblematically changing the name of the Everett property to Encore Boston Harbor. The commission rejects the characterization by Mr. Wynn's legal counsel that he is nothing more than an ordinary private citizen of the state of Nevada vis-a-vis Wynn Resorts," the commission's five members wrote in the ruling. "There is, however, substantial evidence that the relationship between Mr. Wynn and Wynn Resorts has been terminated in a meaningful way such that Mr. Wynn no longer falls with the definition of qualifier at the conclusion of the upcoming annual shareholders meeting."
Most gambling company executives and board members must be deemed qualifiers, but the commission has the discretion to label other people as qualifiers if they are determined to be a "close associate" or a "business associate."
Weighing that question, the commission noted that there has been communication between Wynn and Matt Maddox, the man who replaced him as CEO. Maddox told the Gaming Commission that he has talked with Wynn -- sometimes often -- since he left the company, but added, "I am my own man."
"Depending on the nature of those communications, there could be concern that Mr. Wynn is still actively involved in the operation of the company," the commission wrote, before adding that the evidence suggests the conversations were "largely if not entirely" related to Wynn's separation from the company he founded.
"Each appears to have been appropriate under the circumstances," the commission concluded.
Though the commission has settled the question of Wynn's status as a qualifier, its Investigations and Enforcement Bureau is still investigating the allegations of misconduct against Wynn and the handling of those allegations by Wynn Resorts, its officers and directors.
Previously, the head of the commission's investigations bureau confirmed that Steve Wynn paid a private $7.5 million settlement to a manicurist to resolve a sexual harassment allegation, which was not previously disclosed when Wynn Resorts sought a casino license.
Asked in February whether certain other executives had any knowledge of the settlement, Gaming Commission Executive Director Edward Bedrosian said he could not answer because "that would certainly seem to be part of the ongoing investigation."
"The Gaming Commission, at this point, whether you like the decision with respect to Wynn and whether, in the rear-view mirror, that was good decision or a bad one, they really need to do their homework -- and I believe they are -- on what people knew and when they knew it and how they're going to address it," Baker said in an interview with WBZ-TV's Jon Keller that aired Sunday.
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