David L. Ryan/Globe Staff/File
It’s probably time for casino magnate Steve Wynn to fold his cards in Massachusetts.
We were told that a Wynn casino would bring great fortune, that the legendary gambling palace tycoon could work his magic on the banks of the Mystic River in Everett, a city that luck has long spurned.
But as you may have heard, Wynn’s fortunes have recently taken a nose dive.
An explosive story in the Wall Street Journal last month detailed allegations of long-running sexual misconduct by Wynn, complete with an undisclosed $7.5 million payment to a female employee that Wynn allegedly pressured into having sex with him. That 2005 payment was not disclosed when Wynn was the subject of a background check by Massachusetts officials in 2013, as would have been required.
The Journal story has spurred investigations into Wynn Resorts not only in Massachusetts, but also in Nevada and Macau, where Wynn Resorts operates a famous casino. Two universities — including Wynn’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania — have stripped him of honorary degrees or taken his name off things. In the wake of the allegations, Wynn stepped down as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
To be clear, the Journal story did not simply disclose a one-time payoff. Former employees alleged sexual misconduct stretching back decades. Wynn has strongly denied all of the allegations of wrongdoing.
“The idea that I ever assaulted any woman is preposterous,” Wynn said in a statement. “We find ourselves in a world where people can make allegations, regardless of the truth, and a person is left with the choice of weathering insulting publicity or engaging in multi-year lawsuits.”
That florid declaration has not been especially reassuring to casino-watchers.
When casino gambling was sold to a deeply skeptical state by then-Governor Deval Patrick, we were told that the state would insist on, and maintain, the highest ethical standards — for both the companies that eventually won licenses and the people who ran those companies. This moment is a test of that pledge.
Many close observers believe that the state’s Gaming Commission is likely to take action against Wynn. To its credit, the commission has a record of taking its enforcement responsibilities seriously.
When Caesar’s Palace was a partner with Suffolk Downs in seeking a license for the racetrack site in 2013, the famous casino was found to have ties to shadowy Russian mob figures. When it was clear that Caesar’s could well fail its background check, Suffolk Downs forced its partner out of the deal. Not long after, East Boston voters rejected the site in a shocking referendum vote.
Obviously, the Everett project is in a very different place. The planned $1.2 billion casino has ballooned into a development expected to cost twice that. Hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent. Thousands of people are looking to the project for employment. The casino is going to happen.
But that doesn’t mean Steve Wynn has to be involved.
The gambling commission already has everything it needs to force Wynn out — to declare that he no longer meets its standards for being suited to hold a license. If it does that, Wynn Enterprises would have a decision to make: keep its lucrative deal in Everett, or back its deeply tarnished 76-year-old chief executive.
That doesn’t sound like a tough call.
If the Gaming Commission looks the other way in the face of credible allegations that probably would have prevented Wynn from ever being awarded a license in the first place, it may as well disband. How can they claim to be guardians of anything worth guarding if Wynn can get away with cutting sleazy deals and simply not disclosing them?
Perhaps Wynn will conclude on his own that he’s done and step down from the helm of his company. But Massachusetts can’t rely on his good judgment. Both his conduct and its coverup demand his removal.
Time’s up, Mr. Wynn.
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