Gaming Commission facing heat on Wynn probe

Everett casino scheduled to open in six months

WITH JUST SIX MONTHS to go before the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor opens, the validity of the Wynn Resorts casino license is still up in the air.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission launched an investigation of Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts nearly a year ago, after the Wall Street Journal reported that Steve Wynn had engaged in “a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct.” The investigation was nearly complete last year, when some additional documents surfaced and were turned over to the commission by Wynn Resorts. Those documents are now part of a court fight in Las Vegas initiated by Steve Wynn, who alleges the materials are covered by attorney-client privilege.

While Nevada judge Elizabeth Gonzalez tries to sort out the legal issues (a hearing is scheduled for Friday), the Gaming Commission is facing tremendous heat here at home for an investigation that never seems to end.

Colette A.M. Phillips, who runs her own communications firm in Boston, asks “what’s the holdup” in a Boston Globe op-ed. She says anyone who had any sort of role – direct or indirect – in Steve Wynn’s alleged predatory behavior is gone.

“So who is being punished while the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is still investigating people who no longer work at Wynn Resorts?” Phillips asks. “That would be the men and women who are looking to the casino for professional opportunity and the chance at a better life for themselves and their families, and the city of Everett, which is in desperate need of an economic boost and urban renewal. All told, Encore promises to deliver 5,000 job opportunities for people in Massachusetts: good-paying, blue-collar jobs, from dealers to wait staff to cooks. Many of these people have already begun training.”

Phil Satre, the chairman of the Wynn Resorts board, told CommonWealth early last month that the company has severed ties with Steve Wynn and parted ways with anyone else regulators would deem unsuitable. As for the documents Steve Wynn is seeking to suppress, Satre said that’s a legal debate about attorney-client privilege; he says the documents themselves are not smoking-gun material. “I don’t particularly think that there’s anything that’s significant in terms of the primary area of investigation,” he said.

So if the documents aren’t relevant, why is the Gaming Commission holding up the release of its report?

“I don’t know the answer to that, but I can give you my best guess,” Satre said. “About five or six weeks ago, Ed Bedrosian [the executive director of the Gaming Commission] was responding to questions in one of the commission meetings on why the process has been delayed. And Ed said we’re going to be as thorough and as complete as we possibly can be, and only once we get through this process and have all of the documents will we then present that to the commission.”

Commission officials aren’t saying much publicly, but they clearly see the fight over the records as important. Some at the commission see Steve Wynn’s lawsuit as a fishing expedition designed to block the release of the report; after all, the Nevada Gaming Commission received the same disputed documents from Wynn Resorts but Steve Wynn isn’t suing that agency to suppress them.

Meet the Author

Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

Michael Rawlins, the attorney representing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission in Las Vegas, said he and attorneys representing Wynn Resorts and Steve Wynn are trying to decide what interviews and documents must be reviewed to determine whether they are privileged. Judge Gonzalez will step in if the parties cannot agree.

Rawlins said in court in late December that the Gaming Commission wants to release its report as soon as possible, but it is unwilling to simply turn over the report to Steve Wynn. “We do not want to open the investigative files of a law enforcement agency to the curious eyes of the person whose behavior is the subject of the investigation,” he said.