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.
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.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.