Gaming Commission facing heat on Wynn probe

Analysis shows the benefits and limitations of wind power

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.

“So who is being punished while the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is still investigating people who no longer work at Wynn Resorts?” Phillips asks. “That would be the men and women who are looking to the casino for professional opportunity and the chance at a better life for themselves and their families, and the city of Everett, which is in desperate need of an economic boost and urban renewal. All told, Encore promises to deliver 5,000 job opportunities for people in Massachusetts: good-paying, blue-collar jobs, from dealers to wait staff to cooks. Many of these people have already begun training.”

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.

BRUCE MOHL


BEACON HILL

Beacon Hill notes: Robert DeLeo cruises to reelection as speaker but a small group of Democratic lawmakers registered their disapproval of the process by refusing to back him and supporting a rule amendment that would make future caucus votes for speaker secret ballots. Also, Senate President Karen Spilka outlines her agenda and a new historically accurate Senate chamber is unveiled. (CommonWealth)

A state commission says a shortage of specially trained psychologists is complicating efforts to evaluate the threat of dangerous sexual predators. (Gloucester Times)

Meet the new, second-term Charlie Baker, a lot like the first-term one — an incrementalist. (Boston Globe)

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Lynn Mayor Thomas McGee discusses his first year in office, with a focus on the city’s cash crunch. (Daily Item)

Charlton’s planning board votes 4-0 against a planned $100 million marijuana cultivation facility. (Boston Globe)

A Southborough selectmen’s meeting gets out of hand as a resident calls Selectman Dan Kolenda a “Hitler” and Kolenda takes offense, calling the resident “disgusting.” (MetroWest Daily News)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

Talks between President Trump and congressional Democrats go nowhere as the government shutdown continues. (New York Times)

Trump convenes a bizarre 95-minute cabinet meeting featuring a “stream-of-consciousness defense of his presidency and worldview, filled with falsehoods, revisionist history and self-aggrandizement.” (Washington Post)

Once again, people are trying to figure out Mitt Romney and what makes him tick. (Boston Globe) Herald columnist Kimberly Atkins says the state’s erstwhile governor, who caused a stir with a Washington Post op-ed yesterday slamming President Trump, “has always taken the path of least political peril, even when it forced him to take sharp u-turns on policy positions and political support.” A Globe editorial offers hope that Romney will be a check on Trump, but cautions that “here in Massachusetts it’s easy to snicker at Romney’s latest political reinvention.”

ELECTIONS

The Fall River City Council set March 12 as the date for a mayoral recall election targeting Jasiel Correia, who is under federal indictment on corruption charges related to a startup business he founded. (Herald News)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

National Grid and union locals representing 1,250 steelworkers negotiated a new contract that, if ratified, could end a bitter, six-month lockout. (CommonWealth)

A developer is buying the 20-acre Marlboro Airport for $2.25 million and plans to turn it into an industrial park. (MetroWest Daily News)

EDUCATION

The Boston Public Schools will begin enforcing a policy that kicks out any students older than 21. (Boston Globe)

The Framingham School Committee compromises on Columbus Day. Instead of doing away with Columbus Day and replacing it with Indigenous People’s Day, the committee voted to celebrate both holidays on the same day. (MetroWest Daily News)

TRANSPORTATION

The MBTA wins federal approval for a six-month extension of its $10 ride-all-you-want weekend commuter rail fare. (CommonWealth)

Bus-only lanes are proving popular in Boston, but who will pay for them? (Boston Globe)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Rachael Rollins is sworn in as Suffolk County district attorney and a long list of speakers speculate about what will change during her tenure. (CommonWealth) Andrea Harrington takes the oath of office as Berkshire County district attorney, and her husband provides some interesting details about her. (Berkshire Eagle)

A Norfolk Superior Court judge dismissed child rape charges against a former Milton Academy instructor who had been extradited from Thailand, but prosecutors say they are considering other options. (Patriot Ledger)

MEDIA

The details are a bit fuzzy, but a woman accused of threatening to shoot a GateHouse Media reporter in July is under investigation for violating the terms of her pre-trial release. (MetroWest Daily News)