The Codcast: The nuclear option for Wynn Resorts

Could the Massachusetts Gaming Commission really pull the plug on the $2.4 billion Wynn Resorts hotel and casino going up in Everett?

Chip Tuttle and Jay Gonzalez are at the forefront of those pressing for the commission to do just that.  They say the resignation of Steve Wynn as chairman and chief executive of Wynn Resorts is not enough – that top company officials were either aware or should have been aware of the sexual misconduct alleged by the Wall Street Journal. As a result, they say, the company’s casino license in Massachusetts should be revoked.

“We should have nothing to do with this company,” said Gonzalez, a Democratic candidate for governor.

Tuttle, the chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, which lost out to Wynn Resorts in the competition for the casino license, said there is precedent for yanking the license. He notes Caesars Entertainment was deemed unsuitable because of a connection it had to a hotel operator with alleged ties to the Russian mob. And he said Ourway Realty, the prior owner of the Plainridge harness racing track, was deemed unsuitable because a top executive there was skimming profits.

In both cases, Tuttle said, the Gaming Commission did not allow the companies to sever ties with the concerning party (the hotel operator, in the case of Caesars, and the top executive at Ourway) and move on. Both projects had to move on to Plan B.

Tuttle said the Gaming Commission has several options on how to handle the Wynn situation, which are all complicated by the fact that the project is half finished. He said the commission could press Wynn Resorts to broom its top management and the board; it could force a sale of the Everett hotel and casino, or it could appoint a conservator to take control of the license and presumably strike a deal with some new party. (The conservator approach is raised in the Massachusetts gaming law, but only for a project that is already up and running.)

It could take months, if not years, to license another casino operator and to arrange the sale of the unfinished property. In the meantime, the project could stall, and thousands of jobs and livelihoods would be put on hold. Gonzalez and Tuttle, while acknowledging the high stakes involved, say the steep cost shouldn’t matter.

“What’s the point of having suitability standards if you’re not going to meet them or enforce them?” Tuttle asked. “Just because you have a billion dollars in the ground doesn’t mean you’re excused.”



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