Why a $20m fine looks like a Wynn win

Wynn Resorts was hit with $20 million fine yesterday by Nevada casino regulators, by far the largest sanction ever handed down there — and the company’s honchos were probably high-fiving each other afterwards, letting out sighs of relief that reached all the way to Everett 2,700 miles away.

Such is the strange world of gambling, where things are often not on the level or as they appear to be. The fine was slapped on Wynn for failing to investigate earlier claims of sexual misconduct against company founder Steve Wynn, who resigned last year amidst a swirl of controversy over charges he sexually harassed and assaulted women.

While the penalty was a hefty one, it still represented a slap on wrist compared to the worst case scenario for Wynn — lowering the boom and revoking the company’s Nevada license. The question now is whether it’s also a sign of what’s in store for Wynn here in Massachusetts.

In light of the allegations that surfaced last year concerning Steve Wynn, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is reviewing the company’s suitability to retain the license it was granted for a casino in Everett. A $2.6 billion gambling palace is rising along the Mystic River and scheduled to open in June, but state regulators will have the final say on that.

The commission ordered an investigation to understand who in the company knew what about the allegations against its former CEO, but that has been tied up in litigation Steve Wynn filed charging that some documents investigators may have obtained are protected by attorney-client privilege and should not be publicly released. Last week, the gaming commission voted to direct its lawyers to settle the suit with Steve Wynn.

In an editorial last week, the Globe ripped the commission’s vote — which followed a closed-door discussion — saying it means even the commissioners may not have access to some documents, a fact that “will turn the board’s eventual ruling on Wynn Resort’s fitness into a farce.”

The editorial lamented the fact that it seemed likely the commission would follow Nevada regulators’ playbook and level a fine against the company but allow it to retain its license here.

But that was before Attorney General Maura Healey weighed in. In comments yesterday on WGBH radio, the AG said she is not foreclosing the possibility that her office will get involved in the final licensing matter. “I think there is and will be a role for our office, though it depends on what the report ultimately says,” said Healey, who was an outspoken opponent of introducing casino gambling to Massachusetts.

She expressed concern about the commission not having access to all documents from the Wynn investigation, and she warned that the gambling panel should not feel undue pressure to act quickly because of the scheduled opening date for Wynn’s Encore Boston Harbor casino.

“They need to do their job, they need to do it well and to do it right, and I don’t care that a building’s been built,” Healey said. “The fact that this structure is built or near-built should not be what drives the decision-making of the commission.”

Her comments drew praise from Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld, who said “it sounds like she’s not afraid to take on Wynn and possibly even prevent Encore from opening if an investigation finds that Wynn hid sexual abuse reports by its former CEO in order to snag a coveted gaming license.”

As for what Healey might ultimately do if she concludes the gambling commission made an ill-considered rush to judgment, that’s anyone’s bet.

–MICHAEL JONAS


BEACON HILL

A panel has begun looking into increasing the age of juvenile court jurisdiction so that it covers people older than 17, and Suffolk County District Attorney Rachael Rollins is on board with the idea. (CommonWealth)

A state commission recommends the Legislature consider one or more sites where users can consume illegal drugs under supervision. (State House News Service)

Gov. Charlie Baker’s chief legal counsel, Lon Povich, is leaving after four-plus years on the job. (Boston Globe)

Baker says he’s is ready to try again to pass legislation this session to promote more housing construction. (Boston Globe)

New England Patriots offensive lineman David Andrews is “really sad” about a bipartisan proposal backed by House Minority Leader Brad Jones aiming to do away with tackle football played by young children. (Eagle-Tribune) A Herald editorial pans the bill, calling it “nanny state” overreach.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu says she’s taking up where former city councilor Ayanna Pressley left off in spotlighting the trauma associated with violence, but some advocates say it’s time for action, not more hearings. (Boston Herald)

The Barnstable Planning Board voted unanimously to deny a regulatory agreement between

Hyannis and T-Mobile that would have allowed six antennae to be installed in the steeple of South Congregational Church in Centerville. (Cape Cod Times)

WASHINGTON/NATIONAL/INTERNATIONAL

President Trump’s former lawyer turned government witness Michael Cohen is expected to deliver devastating testimony to Congress today depicting Trump as a racist, a conman, and a cheat. (Washington Post) Congressman Stephen Lynch said he can believe Cohen, and raised the possibility of censure against one of his colleagues for a tweet. (WGBH) Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz posted a menacing tweet directed at Cohen. (CNN)

The House voted to block Trump’s emergency declaration to fund a wall at the US-Mexico border. It heads to the Senate where the vote looks like to be close. (New York Times)

The caste-based system of social hierarchy follows Indian immigrants to the US creating uncomfortable situations for people from lower castes who are subject to discrimination. (WGBH)

ELECTIONS

Even “never Trump” Republicans are reacting coolly to Bill Weld’s potential GOP primary challenge to the president. (Boston Globe)

Somerville and other Bay State cities and towns are considering measures that could allow non-citizens to vote in municipal elections. (WBUR)

There is a growing support in the state for introducing ranked-choice voting, an instant runoff system that would kick in if the top finisher in an election gets less than 50 percent of a vote. (Patriot Ledger)

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

The Board of Selectmen in Shrewsbury are in favor of a five-year plan which would make housing affordable for people at different income levels. (Telegram & Gazette)

Plymouth is heading into its third tourism season without the iconic Mayflower II, a replica of the vessel that carried the Pilgrims over from England in 1620. The rigger is undergoing an $11.2 million restoration project. (Patriot Ledger)

EDUCATION

The former longtime superintendent of the Everett schools, Frederick Foresteire, who abruptly resigned in December, is facing multiple indecent assault charges. (Boston Globe)

HEALTH/HEALTH CARE

Despite warnings that it would run afoul of federal law, a state panel endorses the idea of “safe consumption sites” where intravenous drug users could shoot up with emergency help nearby in the event of an overdose. (Boston Globe)

Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Massachusetts, says small businesses are being hit with an unfair burden of health care costs in the state. (Boston Globe)

TRANSPORTATION

Scott Hamwey of MassDOT outlined ideas for how to improve commuter rail reliability and performance at a 495/MetroWest Partnership transportation meeting. (Metrowest Daily News)

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

A state ban on commercial food waste going to landfills is proving to be an enforcement bust, say businesses that sprang up to process the material into energy but are now starved for the stuff to feed their food-fueled power plants. (Boston Globe) Last year, CommonWealth spotlighted the challenge facing Massachusetts businesses utilizing “anaerobic digestion” to generate energy.

A decrease in the amount of herring that can be fished is going to raise the cost of doing business in the New England lobster industry. (Gloucester Daily Times)

Brayton Point Cooling Towers in Somerset will be imploded on April 27, a move that has residents concerned about contamination and dust from the demolition. (Herald News)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE/COURTS

Adrian Walker says state corrections officials have dropped the ball on implementing reforms adopted into law last year to reduce the use of solitary confinement in prisons. (Boston Globe)

The 13-year-old boy who was allegedly indecently assaulted by a 49-year-old Lawrence police officer he met on Grindr said he realized the man was an officer when he saw him directing traffic after the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions last year. (Eagle-Tribune)

A woman who allegedly knocked a “MAGA” hat off a man at a Falmouth restaurant last week is a Brazilian national who is in the country illegally and now faces deportation as a result of the incident. (MassLive)

A case against a Braintree Fire Department lieutenant charged with threatening a Whitman woman has been continued without a finding for one year. (Brockton Enterprise)

A woman who managed a prostitution house in Oxford and was sentenced to three years of probation in 2013 is now tied up in the Robert Kraft scandal. Lan Yun Ma has been charged in the bust of Florida massage parlors that acted as fronts for forcing women into sexual servitude. (Telegram & Gazette)