The casino giant Wynn Resorts has effectively severed ties with namesake Steve Wynn, its founder and former chief executive, who will no longer be part of the company’s Massachusetts casino license, state regulators announced Monday.
Lawyers for the company and for Steve Wynn had applied to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission to have Wynn removed as a “qualifier” for the company’s $2.5 billion Everett casino project, noting that he quit the company in February and then sold all his Wynn Resorts stock.
Wynn’s exit from the company he had led for some 15 years was startlingly swift, coming after The Wall Street Journal in January reported accusations of sexual misconduct against the gambling mogul. Wynn Resorts recently announced it would drop the Wynn name from its Everett project, formerly called Wynn Boston Harbor, in favor of another of the company’s hotel brands: Encore.
“Based on the evidence presented, Wynn Resorts has worked quickly to separate itself from Mr. Wynn, including emblematically changing the name of the Everett property to Encore Boston Harbor,” the commission wrote in an eight-page decision. The panel cited “substantial evidence” that the relationship between Steve Wynn and his former company “has been terminated in a meaningful way.”
The commission’s decision is a critical step toward Wynn Resorts retaining its Massachusetts license. The allegations against Wynn triggered investigations by the gaming commission and Nevada regulators, and an internal review by the Wynn Resorts board of directors. The Massachusetts investigation is expected to be done by summer; regulators want to know if others in the company were aware of Wynn’s alleged misconduct and what, if anything, they did about it. The commission has the power to take away the company’s license.
Individual qualifiers for a casino license generally include top company leaders and large shareholders; they must pass background checks to be found suitable. Steve Wynn passed a background check in 2013, but the misconduct allegations raised substantial doubt that he could remain suitable. Steve Wynn has denied sexually assaulting any women.
In light of the commission’s investigation, reports have swirled that Wynn Resorts has talked to other companies about selling the Everett property.
New chief executive Matt Maddox has said the company wants to stay in Greater Boston, but he did not rule out a sale if the investigation turned negatively against the company.
The commission’s decision on Steve Wynn will take effect once the company confirms in writing that Wynn did not exercise voting rights, carried over from past stock ownership, at the annual Wynn Resorts shareholder meeting later this month, and once Wynn Resorts verifies that an outstanding account of about $200,000 between Steve Wynn and the company is resolved.
The commission also expects the company to forward any reports of contact by Steve Wynn with company officers or directors.