A Wynn-lose situation

If you lie down with dogs, you might end up with fleas. So goes the old saw, versions of which have been variously attributed to everyone from Ben Franklin to the Roman rhetorician Seneca.

In today’s context, the dog is the state’s startup casino sector, an industry that has historically not been unfamiliar ground for less than stand-up players. Those now scratching at flea bites include pretty much everyone in the state connected to Steve Wynn’s casino now rising in Everett, beginning with the state gambling commission that invited him in.

Last Friday, the Wall Street Journal detailed years of alleged sexual misconduct by Wynn, the CEO of Wynn Resorts. The incidents include a $7.5 million payment to a manicurist at Wynn’s Las Vegas casino who, the story said, was pressured into sex by the casino billionaire.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which was charged with thoroughly investigating the background of applicants for the casino licenses it awarded, is now faced with answering the question, in its chairman’s words, “what the hell happened here?”

That was the unvarnished take yesterday from Steve Crosby, chairing a short meeting of the five-member commission at which he and other members vowed to quickly look into the allegations against Wynn and decide what to do about the license based on their findings.

The commission has wide latitude to revisit the awarding of a license to a company based on very broad grounds related to the “integrity, honesty, good character, and reputation” of its principals.

The $7.5 million settlement was not disclosed to investigators for the commission who vetted Wynn’s application, with the commission’s top investigator saying on Wednesday that “steps were taken to keep it from the public domain.”

“So in other words, there was a cover-up,” writes the Herald’s Joe Battenfeld.

The commission could revoke the license outright. But it also seems to be looking to see how the Wynn corporate board of directors, which has launched its own investigation, deals with the issue. Steve Wynn could be removed as CEO, but his name is still poised to shine atop the glittery new casino, writes the Globe’s Nestor Ramos.

While everyone talks a good game amidst the burgeoning #metoo movement, allowing Wynn’s name to remain on the casino would, Ramos writes, “send a very different message, particularly to survivors of abuse and victims of harassment. ‘We care,’ it would say, ‘but not enough to actually do anything about it.’” Ramos says the state must do whatever it takes, including revoking the Wynn license if necessary, to remove Wynn and his name from the project.

There is also all that Steve Wynn money that has been sloshing around Republican Party coffers. Gov. Charlie Baker called the allegations against Wynn “appalling” and said, if they are true, that Steve Wynn should be deemed unsuitable to hold a casino license in Massachusetts. The Republican Governors Association said it would return $100,000 Wynn has donated over the last three years.

But the Wall Street Journal has also reported on an earlier $2 million donation Wynn made to the RGA in 2014, the same day the governors’ group donated $1.1 million to Baker’s campaign. The paper says that was followed eight days later by another $1.1 million from the RGA to the Baker effort. The paper says RGA staff talked about using the Wynn money to help Baker, but Wynn and the RGA have denied that.

The flea infestation could also reach a once rising star in the constellation of women shaking up the old boys network in Massachusetts politics. Just a week ago, Linda Dorcena Forry announced she was resigning from the state Senate for a job as vice president of diversity and community relations at Suffolk Construction. Suffolk happens to be the contractor building Wynn’s $2.4 billion Everett gambling palace.

Pols who trade public office for fixer jobs in the private sector always run the risk of eventually having to run interference for projects they might have been raising questions about in their former role. For Forry, that risk emerged with lightning speed, as the Wall Street Journal story broke the day after her announcement. Forry has to be desperately hoping for a resolution that doesn’t leave her in the position of having to smooth the way for construction of a giant casino whose facade will be emblazoned with the name of the latest powerful man accused of being a serial sexual predator.

Only a week ago, everyone in the state seemed to be crowing about Steve Wynn’s project. Today, lots of people are itching for a fast resolution that removes him — and his name — from the local landscape.



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