Say goodbye to Steve Wynn, and put our money where our MeToo is
But if that image becomes a reality along the Mystic River in Everett, it will be to our enduring shame.
Whenever that casino opens, it must not bear Steve Wynn’s name. Whatever it costs Massachusetts in lost revenue or wasted time, the chief executive of Wynn Resorts cannot be involved.
It’s time to put our money where our #MeToo is.
Allegations of serial sexual misconduct, detailed in a Wall Street Journal story last week, paint Wynn as a serial harasser, and worse. The Journal story, based on dozens of accounts, describes “a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct,” including pressuring massage therapists for sex acts and paying $7.5 million to settle a claim that he forced a manicurist to have sex with him.
Wynn has denied the accusations. In a statement, he called the notion that he would assault any woman “preposterous” and blamed the allegations on a dispute with his ex-wife.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission, which awarded Wynn a license to operate the Boston area’s only casino in 2014, met Wednesday to address the allegations. The commission has launched an investigation into the claims against Wynn — claims that, if true, clearly contradict the portions of state casino law that require licensees to have integrity and good character.
That doesn’t mean we should expect the commission to prove or disprove every allegation with certainty — an impossible task. This isn’t a criminal prosecution, and anyone who demands one is misunderstanding what’s happening here.
“Innocent until proven guilty” is not an ethical mandate, and it’s plainly not the standard by which gaming licenses are issued, here or anywhere. The burden of proof, Commissioner Lloyd MacDonald said during Wednesday’s emergency meeting, is on the licensee to establish clear and convincing evidence that they are in fact “suitable” — the term the law uses — to operate a casino in Massachusetts.
In a statement, a Wynn spokesman said the company would cooperate with the investigation and that the project is on track for a 2019 opening.
How and whether to proceed with Wynn is a decision that ultimately falls to the commission, and its decision will reflect on all of us.
“We have unlimited authority to do almost anything we want,” said Stephen Crosby, chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. That, the commission’s lawyer said, includes suspending, revoking, or putting conditions on Wynn’s license.
Commissioners were careful to withhold judgment Wednesday, even if one key piece of evidence is already in. The commission’s lead investigator said Monday that a Wynn lawyer confirmed the $7.5 million settlement, and said the company did not believe it was required to report the settlement to the state when the commission was conducting its initial review of Wynn five years ago. That alone would seem to be enough to demand Wynn’s removal from the project.
We may never know, to the satisfaction of some, who Steve Wynn really is. But if this project goes forward with his name attached — if the state takes his money while we all walk around under that gleaming Wynn logo — then who are we?
“If you’re saying that you stand by women,” said Colby Bruno, senior legal counsel at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, “then this is where the rubber meets the road.”
Until now, some of the highest-profile moments of support for the #MeToo movement have involved celebrities putting on pins and wearing coordinating colors, tweeting hashtags and saying the right things. That’s better than nothing, but it’s not much better. It’s opportunities like this one — a chance to do the right thing even when it’s expensive — that can really make a difference.
“If, all of a sudden, someone turned their back on the money and the power and said, ‘We value women and we value what they have to say,’ ” Bruno said, “I think that would be the first step of its kind.”
Emblazoning Wynn’s name above the city would 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.”
Casino construction is already under way, but doing the right thing isn’t impossible. The commission could demand Wynn’s removal from the project and order his name taken off the tower. If the company refuses, the commission could revoke the license outright, leaving Wynn Resorts with a half-finished tower along the Mystic River and over a billion dollars in sunk costs.
That wouldn’t just be expensive for Wynn — the state would forfeit an untold fortune in revenue from whatever delays result, along with what could be a protracted legal battle. It could mean restarting the licensing process and undertaking all over again the years of work that got us here.
It would cost us a lot. The things we’re proudest of usually do.