Suffolk Downs files $3b suit against Wynn Resorts
Court action comes in midst of casino license suitability review
THE FORMER OWNER of Suffolk Downs filed a lawsuit against Wynn Resorts in federal court on Monday alleging numerous violations of racketeering laws and seeking a total of $3 billion in damages.
The lawsuit was filed as the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is preparing to decide whether Wynn is suitable to retain its casino license in the wake of allegations of sexual misconduct against the company’s former chairman and CEO Steve Wynn.
Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, the company that has continued to operate the Suffolk Downs racetrack while the land is being developed, lost out to Wynn in the competition for the license and claims Wynn’s illegal actions were the reason Sterling and its casino partners failed to prevail.
The lawsuit doesn’t make any new allegations against Wynn, but instead puts its own spin on a controversial licensing process to make the case that the Las Vegas casino operator “conspired to fix the application process, circumvent laws in place to prevent the infiltration of mob elements, and interfere and eliminate various regulations aimed at protecting the public at large.”
Wynn Resorts issued a statement dismissing the lawsuit. “This lawsuit was brought by Richard Fields, an unsuccessful applicant for the license awarded to Wynn Resorts. His claims are frivolous and clearly without foundation. We will mount a vigorous defense,” the statement said. A major investor in Sterling Suffolk was Richard Fields, who runs Coastal Development LLC. Fields developed the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
The previous owners of the land on which the Wynn casino – now named Encore Boston Harbor – is being built were also named as defendants. Three of them were charged by federal prosecutors with concealing a convicted felon’s ownership stake in the land, both from Wynn Resorts and investigators for the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. In April 2016, the three defendants were found not guilty by a jury. Jurors refused to talk about their decision after the trial, but they appeared to believe the defendants’ claim that the convicted felon had been bought out prior to the sale to Wynn.
Sterling Suffolk, in its lawsuit, cast the jury’s decision in a different light. The lawsuit said the defendants were acquitted “because the jury believed their defense that the alleged ‘victims’ of the falsified documents, namely the Wynn defendants, had known full well the truth about their involvement.”The lawsuit resurrects a host of awkward and embarrassing moments both for Wynn Resorts and Stephen Crosby, the chairman of the Gaming Commission who had to recuse himself from deliberations on the Wynn license when it was revealed that an old business partner of his held an ownership stake in the Everett land.
It also says Suffolk Downs “was by far the best location for a casino” in the Greater Boston area. Even so, the lawsuit says, “the Wynn defendants were granted a license to operate their casino on a toxic waste site loaded with levels of arsenic still so high that a child day care center would not be permitted to be housed there, even after the site was remediated and the regulations amended to countenance higher levels.”