WHEN IT COMES to Steve Wynn, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission always had an integrity problem.
Given the serious sexual misconduct charges against Wynn, it now has a bigger one. And this time, there’s no ducking it, as evidenced by a quick decision to hold a public meeting on Wednesday to “assess implications for ongoing suitability” after an explosive Wall Street Journal report.
It shouldn’t take long to reach the obvious conclusion. Based on the charges, Wynn is not “suitable” to operate a casino in Massachusetts. He should not be allowed to retain his title as CEO of Wynn Resorts as construction moves forward at his Everett site.
When Wynn applied for a much-coveted casino license, state investigators did a background check that included a deep dive into his personal civil litigation history. Investigators also supposedly checked in with the human resources department at Wynn Resorts. None of it turned up anything “material or adverse” to Wynn’s “suitability” to operate a casino in Massachusetts, according to a report to the state gaming commission, dated Dec. 6, 2013.
All the investigators asked was for Wynn to publicly explain his business practices in Macau, China — which Wynn did, with former governor Bill Weld at his side. There should have been more questions about alleged predatory practices taking place right in Wynn’s Las Vegas lair.
According to the Journal, a manicurist who worked at Wynn Las Vegas in 2005 said that Wynn forced her to have sex. After being told of the allegations, the woman’s supervisor filed a detailed complaint with Wynn Resorts HR. Wynn later paid the manicurist a $7.5 million settlement, the Journal reported. That’s serious money, if you consider that a lawyer for Donald Trump arranged a $130,000 payment to a porn star as part of an agreement to stop her from publicly discussing an alleged sexual encounter in 2006, according to another Journal report.
Journal interviews with “dozens of people” also revealed “a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct” by Wynn, including allegations “he pressured employees to perform sex acts.”
Wynn denies the Journal report and blames the allegations on his former wife, who is battling him over restrictions on the sale of her stock in Wynn Resorts. But in this post-#MeToo era, the headlines have already cost him his position as finance chair to the Republican National Committee, a post he won with support from President Trump. Republicans are fleeing from him. In a radio interview, Governor Charlie Baker called the allegations “appalling and disgraceful” and said he wants the gaming commission to move quickly on them.
Of course, Wynn’s “suitability” has been questioned before. But with power players like Weld and Mo Cowan, onetime chief of staff to former Governor Deval Patrick, behind him, the mogul always managed to wiggle past the skeptics.
The Wynn proposal passed the commission’s “suitability” test even though two of the original owners of the land Wynn ultimately purchased in Everett were convicted felons. Meanwhile, Caesars Entertainment, a rival casino bidder, was forced to drop out due to a much more tenuous connection to criminals — a licensing arrangement with a hotel chain that had, through an investor, an alleged link to the Russian mob.
Wynn also got the casino license before he completely assembled the land he needed for construction. He was able to acquire a swatch of Everett land from the MBTA without a public bid and for less than the amount assessed by the City of Everett.
The City of Boston filed suit against the gaming commission, charging “a corrupt process to favor Wynn.” But the suit was dismissed by a superior court judge, who found that the commission did not violate state law, which grants it great discretion.
Through it all, gaming commission chairman Steve Crosby defended the process and his own integrity. Yet Crosby ultimately recused himself from the final casino license vote because his former business associate was one of the original owners of the Everett site.
Wynn’s “suitability” was blown up by forces outside Massachusetts. Now it’s up to Massachusetts to salvage what’s left of its own integrity.Joan Vennochi can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.