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JOAN VENNOCHI

Wynn v. Wynn: In conflict or in cahoots?

Steve Wynn Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Wynn v. Wynn. What a diabolically brilliant way for Steve Wynn to make sure that what allegedly happened in Vegas, with women who accuse him of sexual misconduct, stays in Vegas.

It might also make it possible for Wynn Resorts to hang onto a state-issued license to operate a gambling palace on the banks of the Mystic River without ever publicly confronting what company executives knew about the dirty details.

Last week, Wynn, the former chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, filed suit against the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and the company he founded. The goal: to prevent the commission from releasing its report on what Wynn Resorts officials knew about accusations from several women who contend Wynn sexually harassed or assaulted them. The theory: Communications between Wynn and Wynn Resorts are protected by attorney-client privilege and should not have been turned over to state investigators.

On the surface, Wynn looks like he’s in conflict with his old company. But might they really be in cahoots? Because suppressing the commission’s findings could also help Wynn Resorts.

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The report, due out in December, is key to determining whether Wynn Resorts is “suitable” to operate Encore Boston Harbor, a $2.5 billion casino project nearing completion in Everett. If it remains under wraps, the casino will move forward with a planned June opening date under Wynn Resorts management.

Wynn Resorts has no comment on the suit. In a statement, the commission said it will fight Wynn’s efforts to block release of its report. The investigation into Wynn Resorts was launched after a January report in The Wall Street Journal about multiple allegations of sexual misconduct made against Wynn. The casino mogul denies them all. Meanwhile, he resigned from his company, sold his stock in Wynn Resorts, and moved out of the duplex villa that he occupied at the Wynn Las Vegas resort. Those moves, plus other board and executive suite changes, were intended to make the case that Wynn Resorts minus Steve Wynn could pass any suitability sniff test.

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Still, Wynn’s latest maneuvering adds to the whiff of a wired deal that’s has hung over the commission ever since its members declared Wynn Resorts the winner of the Boston-area casino license. After that decision, losing bidders filed suit against the commission, and the former owners of Suffolk Downs racetrack, a partner in a losing bid, also sued Wynn Resorts. In September, longtime commission chairman Stephen Crosby resigned, citing complaints from Wynn and Mohegan Sun, one of the losing bidders, that he had prejudged the outcome of the latest suitability investigation. “I simply cannot let my involvement in these critical deliberations be used by others to hamper the commission’s ability to do its work, or to undermine the confidence of the public in that work,” Crosby wrote in a resignation letter. Gayle Cameron, another commission member, was named interim chair.

Now, it’s up to Governor Charlie Baker to appoint a new chair. He hasn’t yet, which could be a strategy to keep as much political distance as possible between himself and the commission’s suitability decision regarding Wynn Resorts. Steve Wynn’s lawsuit probably didn’t surprise the governor. Asked about the gaming commission during a preelection meeting with the Globe editorial board, Baker said, “My assumption here is . . . they’re going to get sued.”

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Meanwhile, former Governor Bill Weld, who shepherded Wynn through his first suitability test, and still represents Wynn Resorts, predicts the casino giant would keep its license. “No one in Massachusetts had anything to do with the stuff that was going on out in Las Vegas,” said Weld, who, by the way, also gave Baker his start in government back in the 1990s, as a member of his cabinet.

Regarding “the stuff that was going on out in Las Vegas” — the public deserves to know what the gaming commission found out about it. All credibility will be lost if this report remains secret, Wynn Resorts holds onto its license, and what allegedly happened in Vegas stays there.


Joan Vennochi can be reached at vennochi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @Joan_Vennochi.