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.”

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

State officials and advocates say the request by the Department of Justice to add a question about citizenship to the 2020 Census will put fear into immigrants and could lead to many not participating in the decennial count and skewing the numbers. (Eagle Tribune)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

The Boston Police Department’s official Twitter account sent out a tweet in honor of Black History Month hailing the accomplishments of the late Red Auerbach — a white man who coached and was president of the Boston Celtics, for those who are unaware — and social media lit the department up for being tone deaf and forced the removal of the post and an apology. (Boston Globe)

Joe Biden’s appearance at Boston Mayor Marty Walsh’s inauguration last month was a rewarding one as Walsh purchased 1,500 copies of the former vice president’s book at a cost of more than $18,000 to give out to attendees of the ceremony. (Boston Herald)

Middleboro officials will seek to have the building housing the police department, which dats back nearly 200 years and was once a general store, declared a historic site when the department moves out in May. (The Enterprise)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s $1.3 trillion infrastructure plan, set to be unveiled today, will put more emphasis on states using their own funds while federal officials will fast-track approvals. (Governing)

Immigration arrests are up dramatically over the last year but records show most of those rounded up have no criminal record, caught up by agents trying to meet President Trump’s goals of sweeping out illegal immigrants. (Washington Post)

The abuse claims and subsequent resignations of two White House aides continue to roil the administration, with conflicting reports of President Trump irate at chief of staff John Kelly for his handling of the situation but top aides saying the president continues to support his beleaguered aide. (New York Times)

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt has been traveling frequently, expensively, and secretively home and abroad on the taxpayer’s dime, according to records. (Washington Post)

ELECTIONS

State Rep. John Scibak of South Hadley, who was first elected as a write-in candidate in 2003, announced he will not run for reelection this year. (The Republican)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Senior officials of Oxfam, the worldwide nonprofit that targets poverty, paid survivors for sex in earthquake-ravaged Haiti using the charity’s funds. (The Times of London)

EDUCATION

Harvard University has tapped Lawrence Bacow, former president of Tufts University, to succeed retiring President Drew Gilpin Faust and become the school’s 29th president. (Boston Globe)

A judge has ruled a wrongful termination suit by two UMass Lowell security officers can move forward after determining the officer’s allegations against the school’s Police Department about patronage hiring and sexual misconduct are of public interest. (Lowell Sun)

Jeffrey Villar starts today as the new receiver of the failing Southbridge school district, which has seen seven superintendents and two receivers since 2010. (Telegram & Gazette)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Doctors at Boston Children’s Hospital and four other hospitals around the country doing research on asthma in children are facing ethical questions for giving half the kids in the study a placebo. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

A former engineer for the MBTA’s commuter rail line, who is the son of a prominent judge, was allowed to operate trains for years despite losing his driver’s license numerous times and an 80-page record of infractions that suggests he received special treatment in court. (Boston Globe)

James Aloisi says a new report that shows Boston among the worst cities in the country when it comes to traffic congestion highlights the need to invest in a long-range mobility plan that improves all facets of transportation. (CommonWealth)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

The Baker administration put a decision off for a week on what the next steps are in dealing with the fallout from the Northern Pass power lines project that was rejected by New Hampshire officials. (CommonWealth)

The state has told Dennis officials off-road vehicles should be banned from areas of the town’s public beaches where piping plovers nest, triggering fierce opposition from residents who have driven over the trails for generations. (Cape Cod Times)

Shallow waters are making commercial shellfishing difficult in Westport. (Herald News)

CASINOS/MARIJUANA

The state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs has sent a letter to the Cannabis Control Commission saying the board’s proposed regulations concerning energy consumption by pot growers and manufacturers does not go far enough to ensure conservation as required by the law. (MassLive)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

A Plymouth man dubbed the “Obit Bandit” by police was arrested and charged with breaking into people’s homes while they attended wakes or funerals of relatives, including a Sandwich police officer whose mother had died. (Patriot Ledger)

Carol Rose of the ACLU of Massachusetts says district attorneys need to be held more accountable and the best way to do that is inform the voting public of both their influence and their records. (CommonWealth)

MEDIA

WEEI host Christian Fauria is suspended for five days for mimicking a racist and stereotype Asian accent to mock a sports agent with an Asian name. (Boston Herald) Shirley Leung calls out station management for turning a blind eye to racist and hateful content disguised as sports talk in pursuit of ratings and says advertisers and sports team associated with WEEI have to push for the culture change, (Boston Globe)

Northeastern University journalism professor Dan Kennedy offers some advice for the new billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Times, drawing from the experiences of other billionaire owners such as the Washington Post’s Jeff Bezos and the Boston Globe’s John Henry. (Poynter)