Steve Wynn’s residual influence
Gaming Commission moving cautiously amid reports Everett facility for sale
Steve Wynn is gone from the company that bears his name, but is his influence really gone?
It’s a question the members of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission are starting to grapple with as they decide whether the alleged sexual misconduct that cost Wynn his job will also cost the company its Massachusetts casino license.
Wynn has physically removed himself from the company. He resigned as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts in February and in March sold all his company stock – pocketing $1.4 billion.
Now Wynn and his former company are petitioning the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to remove him from the firm’s list of so-called qualifying employees, which is gambling industry jargon for those who are in a position to influence a company’s decisions and who must meet fairly broad suitability standards.
At a meeting on Thursday, the Gaming Commission said it plans to hold a hearing on the matter in a month or so. The slow pace of action comes amid news reports that Wynn Resorts is looking to sell its under-construction Everett hotel/casino, possibly to MGM Resorts.
Commission chairman Stephen Crosby characterized the board’s cautious decision-making process as appropriate. “This is not just a routine change of a significant player. This is a change of a very significant player and therefore we ought to have a public hearing where we discuss the pros and cons of Steve Wynn leaving his category as a qualifier, an important party to this transaction,” he said.
As reporters pressed for details, Crosby provided a few. “It’s not just checking boxes,” Crosby said, referring to whether Wynn still works at the company or owns stock in it. “It goes to does he have any residual influence.”
I asked Crosby if having the Wynn name on the Everett casino would amount to residual influence. “I would guess probably not, not inherently, no,” he said. “There’s no influence on operations via the name. The name has its own issues, which we are told Wynn Resorts is addressing.” (Wynn Resorts is giving strong consideration to changing the name to Encore, the name on one of the company’s hotels in Las Vegas.)
My guess is that the Gaming Commission will eventually conclude Steve Wynn is no longer a qualifying employee under state law, but at some point the commissioners will have to make a determination whether his removal from the company really removes all his residual influence.Steve Wynn had a profound effect on Wynn Resorts. He hired or promoted most of the top employees and he dealt with almost every aspect of a hotel-casino’s design, from the thread count of the sheets on the beds to the design of the toilets in the bathrooms. In this sense, his residual influence will remain with the company for a long time to come.
Most Wynn employees viewed Steve Wynn as a living legend, and jumped when he said jump. It probably won’t be hard for Gaming Commission investigators to conclude that employees and board members didn’t do enough to rein in Wynn, as often happens when working with powerful executives.