Why should a Nevada court call the shots on what Massachusetts gaming regulators can or cannot do?
Massachusetts paid for an investigation into Wynn Resorts in order to determine whether the Nevada company remains suitable to operate a casino in the Commonwealth. Its regulators have a right to see the resulting report — all of it.
A Nevada state judge, though, has blocked the delivery of the finished document, a ruling stemming from a lawsuit filed by Wynn, who used to run the casino giant.
Don’t be distracted by all the legal mumbo jumbo. At heart, the lawsuit filed by Wynn is a desperate effort by the disgraced mogul to keep incriminating information about himself and Wynn Resorts out of the public domain. He chose to do it in Nevada because it provides home-court advantage for his claim that certain documents his old company turned over to investigators are protected by attorney-client privilege. But Massachusetts shouldn’t be playing by Vegas rules.
The bottom line is this: The state needs to figure out a way to get the full, unredacted report into the hands of gaming commissioners before the casino’s scheduled opening in June. The commission must be able to complete its assessment of suitability with all the information available, not just the information that Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez chooses to share. And it needs to do so on this state’s timetable, not hers.
There’s some urgency here, because the casino, and Wynn Resorts’ management of it, is becoming more of a fait accompli every day. Throughout the litigation, Wynn Resorts has marched forward with big launch plans for the Everett complex, which was rechristened Encore Boston Harbor to erase Wynn’s name from the public consciousness.
Construction is 90 percent complete, Wynn representatives told the gaming commission on Thursday. Carpeting is down and slot machine bases are about to be installed. More than 600 trees have been planted on the grounds surrounding the casino, and water chestnuts (which are an invasive aquatic plant) have been removed from the Mystic River.
In short, everything’s set to go — except that gaming commission members have yet to read a word of what their own investigators turned up about Wynn’s behavior; what his company knew about it; and what Massachusetts regulators missed the first time they investigated Wynn and the company he founded.
If the ruling by the Nevada judge goes unchallenged, commissioners will see only a redacted report, stripped of details that could be critical to deciding whether Wynn Resorts gets to keep its license to operate the Everett enterprise. That may save Wynn, Wynn Resorts, and the commission from confronting the most embarrassing revelations. But it doesn’t serve the public interest.
Judge Gonzalez can tell Massachusetts regulators what to do because of a 1979 Supreme Court case, Nevada v. Hall, that held that a state can be sued in the court of another state without its consent. Ironically, the Supreme Court is currently considering whether to overrule that precedent. In making his case in oral arguments before the justices, lawyer Seth Waxman referred to the suit Wynn filed in Nevada against the Massachusetts gaming commission as a poster child for “disrespecting the dignity and sovereignty of states.”
The state shouldn’t accept that disrespect. It can appeal the Nevada ruling, though that could further delay any resolution. Or investigators could defy the judge’s order and hand the full report over to commissioners, which comes with the risk of being held in contempt of court.
Whatever the commissioners do, the current ridiculous situation, in which Massachusetts investigators have compiled a written report that they can’t turn over to the commission, isn’t acceptable.