Wynn Watch: Mass. Gaming Commission Says Investigation Continues, ‘Is a Priority’

So much hangs in the balance: the license for an Eastern Massachusetts casino, the partially built $2.4 billion project materializing and growing by the day, the name of the project, and perhaps most importantly—the $30 million a year the city of Everett is counting on and the money that would be due the state. The state gaming commission’s investigation of the Wynn Boston Harbor project remains “priority” but when it will conclude is unclear.

Steve Wynn rolled snake eyes when the Wall Street Journal reported on his decades of alleged sexual abuse and assault—the state gaming commission launched an investigation into the “suitability” of Wynn Resorts as a license holder; Wynn himself resigned his positions at his company; various advocacy and political entities weighed in; a rival casino operator saw an opening. Now, everyone sits and waits.

Rendering of Wynn Boston Harbor atrium.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau made it clear Thursday that the investigation is proceeding. “It is an active investigation, and it is a priority,” said Loretta Lillios, deputy director/chief enforcement counsel, at an MGC meeting on Thursday afternoon as reported by the Boston Business Journal. “The IEB does not intend to provide the commission or the public with details of this investigation until it’s completed.” So, wait we must all wait.

There has been considerable angst in the host city of Everett which has been dealing with a budget shortfall in the school department while anticipating the $30 million a year it would receive only when the resort casino actually opens. Any delay, means a delay in getting the cash.

Politics, of course, has entered the mix. Wynn resigned as the finance chair of the Republican Nation Committee and there is question as to whether politicians who received campaign contributions should return them.

The group that competed for—but ultimately lost—the lone Eastern Mass. casino license now sees an opening. Mohegan Sun, the casino run by an Indian tribe in Connecticut, hoped to construct a resort casino on the grounds of the former Suffolk Downs race track. The Mohegans cried foul at the time the license was awarded to Wynn and now thinks its claims are validated.

The Wynn Boston Harbor resort and casino as seen from the Assembly Row in Somerville as construction continues on the Everett project.

The state gaming commission has extraordinary latitude in deciding what constitutes “suitability” for the license holder.  Under Massachusetts law, character, reputation, and integrity are all elements of “suitability” to hold a license. Wynn passed such a standard in 2014.

One major issue working against Wynn Resorts is that Wynn himself set up side company in order to hide a multi-million-dollar settlement with a manicurist who claimed Wynn forced her into sex. Did the board of directors know about the settlement? Did it aid and abet the concealing of it? If so, it might be bad news for the development.

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