The resignation of chief executive Steve Wynn may mark a substantial step toward getting Wynn Resorts out of the crosshairs of Massachusetts regulators, but the casino giant remains under a cloud of scrutiny.
A day after Wynn stepped down as the head of the company he founded, the state gaming commission said Wednesday it is aggressively continuing its review of sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn, and how they may affect the status of the company and its key executives in regard to holding a Massachusetts casino license.
Investigators want to know whether other executives or board members at Wynn Resorts knew about the claims against Wynn, and, if so, what they did, or failed to do, about those allegations.
“Our investigation has to continue,” Gayle Cameron, a member of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, said at a commission meeting. “Finding out exactly what happened (and) when is . . . critical to any decisions we make.”
Investigators will also focus on what happens to Wynn’s stake in Wynn Resorts. Wynn, 76, owns about 12 percent of the company, which he founded in 2002.
Asked about Wynn’s share of the business, a Wynn Resorts official referenced the statement from the company’s board of directors announcing Wynn’s departure, which said that “details of Mr. Wynn’s separation will be disclosed when they are finalized.”
Without its founder, Wynn Resorts says it is moving ahead with construction of Wynn Boston Harbor, a $2.4 billion casino on the Mystic River in Everett, which is well into construction. It is scheduled to open in June 2019.
To replace Wynn as CEO, the Wynn Resorts board promoted company president Matt Maddox to chief executive.
Maddox, 42, a longtime, trusted Steve Wynn lieutenant, was a logical in-house choice for the top job. He has been with Wynn Resorts since 2002, after previously working in corporate finances for the Caesars Entertainment casino chain, according to his company biography. From 2008 to 2014, Maddox was Wynn Resorts’ chief financial officer. He took on the title of president in 2013.
Wall Street investors liked the move: Wynn Resorts stock rose about 8.6 percent Wednesday.
Maddox is not well-known outside of the casino industry, unlike Wynn, who was the face of the company and a recognized public figure who enjoyed media attention and jousting with the press.
“The fact that [Maddox] doesn’t have visibility does concern me,” said Roger Gros, a gambling industry specialist and the publisher of Global Gaming Business. “There was no one with more visibility than Steve Wynn. If he’s bringing in someone without visibility, what does that portend for the company?”
Maddox is credited with discovering the Everett property where Wynn Resorts is now building its casino, and proposing bringing the location to Steve Wynn. Wynn told the Globe several years ago that he was skeptical when he first visited what was a polluted wasteland, the site of a former chemical plant. He remarked to Maddox at the time: Do you know how much money it would cost to make this pretty?
The company ultimately optioned the land, feeling good about the view over the Mystic River to the Boston skyline, the political support from Everett City Hall, and the prospects of winning a citywide referendum.
Wynn Resorts won the Greater Boston resort casino license in 2014, beating out a bid from Suffolk Downs and its casino partner, Mohegan Sun.
The company has already named the Everett casino Wynn Boston Harbor. Wynn Resorts has no plans to rebrand the project without the Wynn name, a spokesman said. The statement the company issued Tuesday night announcing Wynn’s resignation touted the “high standards of excellence” that “the Wynn brand has come to represent.”
Whether the Wynn brand can retain its commercial appeal may depend on whether — and how soon — the company puts the scandal behind it, Gros said.
“I do think the brand is damaged now,” he said, noting that Wynn’s alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania, recently said it would remove the mogul’s name from a campus plaza named for him, while revoking an honorary degree awarded to Wynn.
If the scandal were to end with Wynn’s resignation, “I think they would be able to rebuild the brand,” Gros said. But other twists or turns that prolong the story would continue to erode the Wynn name, potentially hurting business at the high-end hotels that bear his name, he said.
Meanwhile, Wynn’s old competitors for the Boston-area casino license are making a public case against Wynn Resorts.
Chip Tuttle, chief operating officer of Suffolk Downs, said in a commentary posted Wednesday by CommonWealth Magazine that Wynn’s resignation “while clearly a step in the right direction, does not make Wynn Resorts suitable to hold a casino license in Massachusetts.”
A public relations firm that represented Mohegan Sun during the licensing competition has been quietly contacting reporters around town in recent days, with an argument that Wynn Resorts should be disqualified from holding a casino license.
Work has continued uninterrupted on the Everett project. More than 1,000 people now work at the site; that number will rise to about 1,500 in the spring. The company expects to employ about 4,000 people when it opens.
The Jan. 26 Wall Street Journal story that ignited the scandal reported that dozens of people interviewed “told of behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decade’s long pattern of sexual misconduct by Mr. Wynn,” including acts of exposing himself and pressuring employees for sex.
The story said that in 2005, Wynn forced a manicurist at his Las Vegas casino property into sex, and later paid her a $7.5 million settlement. The existence of that settlement was not disclosed to Massachusetts investigators who performed a background check on the company in 2013.
The Wall Street Journal has reported that a Wynn Resorts spokesman said the private settlement was outside the scope of the documents required by the Massachusetts license application.
Steve Wynn has sharply denied the accusations, calling the notion that he assaulted any woman “preposterous.”
The $7.5 million settlement appears to be a focus of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission. Its chairman, Steve Crosby, asked at Wednesday’s meeting if the commission’s staff knew whether Maddox or Boone Wayson, the company’s new non-executive chairman, “had any knowledge of the events of the $7.5 million settlement.”
Ed Bedrosian, the commission’s executive director, responded that he could not give an answer.Mark Arsenault can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark