THERE’S AN EASY CALL to make following the Wall Street Journal report detailing “a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct” by casino magnate Steve Wynn. The board of Wynn Resorts Ltd. should remove him as CEO and take his name off the casino that’s rising along the Mystic River in Everett.
The harder decision is whether to revoke the license granted to Wynn to build that casino. That’s on the table, too. But first, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission should figure out, as chairman Stephen Crosby put it, “what the hell happened here.” And the Crosby directive applies not only to Wynn, but also to the gaming commission.
To get the go-ahead in Massachusetts, Wynn passed a “suitability” test that measured his “integrity, honesty, good character and reputation.” Wynn’s now-acknowledged failure to tell gaming commission investigators about a $7.5 million settlement to a Las Vegas manicurist who accused him of forcing her into sex is clear evidence of dishonesty. The Journal report that revealed the settlement, along with allegations that Wynn pressured other employees into sex, also raises serious questions about Wynn’s integrity, good character, and reputation.
Wynn denies the charges, which he blames on his former wife. But in the wake of a #MeToo movement spawned by sexual misconduct charges against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, the accusations against Wynn were quickly denounced as “appalling” and “disgraceful” by Governor Charlie Baker. Crosby, too, called them “appalling” and “deeply troubling.”
But rhetoric should never be confused with action. The gaming commission is launching its own investigation, but set no timetable for investigators to report back. Meanwhile, the gaming commission is looking to the board of Wynn Resorts to do something. The Weinstein Company’s board of directors voted to fire its cofounder. But the company is still in the moviemaking business. Wynn Resorts can and should fire Wynn. But that doesn’t resolve the matter of whether Massachusetts wants to do business with a casino company that still bears Wynn’s name, even if he’s no longer officially associated with it. To determine that, the gaming commission needs to determine who else in Wynn’s company knew about the $7.5 million settlement and was involved in the decision to cover it up. If Wynn Resorts perpetuated a fraud on Massachusetts, the company, not just Wynn, flunks the suitability test.
The gaming commission should also explore how a supposedly exhaustive investigation into Wynn and his company failed to turn up any information about the allegations reported by the Journal. Karen Wells, director of the commission’s enforcement arm, told commissioners it was a private agreement “and steps were taken to keep it from the public domain.” Yet, according to the Journal, the manicurist who made the charges against Wynn informed a supervisor, who filed a detailed report to the casino’s human resources department.
According to page 94 of the gaming commission’s suitability report on Wynn, investigators “reviewed the Wynn Resorts’ Code of Business Conduct and Ethics Policy, with which all employees, officers and directors of Wynn Resorts and its subsidiaries are expected to comply.” Apparently no one checked to see if the CEO was complying with them. If that written report still exists, it would document a losing hand when it comes to Wynn’s suitability.