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Wynn sues for libel in latest salvo over casino

Steve Wynn offered a presentation before the state gambling commission on Jan. 22, 2014.Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff/File/Globe Freelance

Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn is escalating his battle with Boston officials, filing a libel lawsuit this week against an unidentified casino foe and issuing a scathing critique of the treatment his company has received since it arrived in the Boston area with plans to build in Everett.

"No individual or company who presents themselves honestly in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, by any measure of fair play, should be subjected to the defamatory political abuse that we have experienced, and it is our intention to finally deal with it," Wynn said in a statement to the Globe.

In a lawsuit filed Monday in Suffolk Superior Court, Wynn Resorts Ltd. says unknown defendants defamed the company by providing subpoenas to the media related to a City of Boston lawsuit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission.


The suit alleges the city's subpoenas were intended not to collect information but to spread falsehoods contained within the documents to hurt Wynn, the company that holds a state license to build a $1.7 billion casino resort on vacant industrial land in Everett.

The falsehoods, according to the suit, included the allegation that Wynn employed two former state troopers who were given propriety information about a felon who owned property at the future casino site. Also false, Wynn contends, was the allegation that Wynn's representatives attended a meeting in early 2013 in which the felon's land interest was discussed.

Whoever leaked those "sham subpoenas" defamed the company and its president, Matthew Maddox, the lawsuit states.

"Although our commitment to Massachusetts is absolute and irrevocable, our tolerance for mean-spirited, libelous statements has exceeded any reasonable limit," Wynn said in his statement. "Someone knowingly disseminated sham subpoenas containing falsehoods — outright lies — designed to interfere with our license granted by the Gaming Commission and defame our reputation. We intend to identify the malicious individuals who did this and call them to account."


A spokesperson for Mayor Martin J. Walsh said in a statement last evening, "We have not seen the lawsuit but the city did not provide these documents to the press."

Though neither the lawsuit nor Wynn's statement personally blames Walsh, Wynn in a July letter accused the mayor of attacking the casino company with false statements in the subpoenas and suggested he may sue. His July 6 letter to Walsh, sent through a lawyer, claimed that state law does not protect individuals from liability for defamation by providing falsehoods to the media through legal documents.

Material from the subpoenas was published by the Globe on June 29.

Boston lawyer Howard M. Cooper, who has experience in libel and First Amendment issues, said he had never seen a libel suit based on statements contained in a subpoena.

"It's clever," he said in a Globe interview, "but my immediate reaction is it's complicated by the litigation privilege, it's complicated by the right of parties to petition the court and use the legal process."

The lawsuit is a new salvo in the ongoing battle between the gambling magnate and the mayor.

Walsh has filed two lawsuits seeking to block Wynn's project, claiming it would hurt residents of nearby Charlestown. The mayor has insisted that Boston should be given greater authority over the development of the casino and that residents of Charlestown deserve to vote on the project. The state gambling commission, in its license process, rejected Walsh's claims. The commissioners chose the Wynn project over a competing proposal for Revere by Mohegan Sun.


Both the US Attorney's office and the judge in the case have rebuked the city's tactics in its lawsuit against the gambling commission.

The mayor sued the commission in January, accusing it of running a corrupt licensing process and of ignoring parts of the state's 2011 casino law — accusations the commission has denied.

The city filed another suit in September, asking a judge to overturn the key environmental approval given to the casino by the state.

In late June, the City of Boston issued more than a dozen subpoenas in its suit against the gambling commission.

"The real purpose of these 'subpoenas' was to transmit to the media and cause to be published in the media, false and defamatory statements about Wynn and Maddox," the lawsuit states. It says the unnamed defendants provided the subpoenas to the media "even before they were served on the persons named in the subpoenas."

Wynn filed the eight-page suit to "disprove the falsehoods, set the record straight, and recover damages," according to the document. The suit does not name a figure for damages.

John Ellement of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com.