What did the state gaming commission know about Steve Wynn’s sexual harassment settlement with a former worker, and when did it know it? As the gambling authority ostensibly investigates Wynn Resorts for its “suitability” to hold a state casino license, it has been revealed that a commission investigator knew about the $7.5 million settlement last year—weeks before the Wall Street Journal’s report that sent shock waves through the gaming industry.
The state gaming commission went out of its way to say it was unaware of any sexual harassment charges against Steve Wynn until the WSJ’s Jan. 26 report, including the huge financial settlement. Wynn was still CEO and chairman of Wynn resorts at the time. The company is constructing the gargantuan $2.4 billion resort casino in Everett.
But news website MassLive.com (the online version of the Springfield Republican newspaper), reports that at least one investigator with the commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau (IEB) had known about Wynn’s sexual harassment settlement and the existence of sexual misconduct claims against him for over a month.
On Dec. 28, 2017, Bloomberg News published a story under the headline, “Steve Wynn’s settlement with worker haunts him in ex-wife’s suit.” The report included some details of the huge financial settlement, “Steve Wynn’s settlement with a former employee in 2005 was done privately, but the secret refuses to go away,” the report said. “The casino mogul and his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn, have been battling over documents related to the employee’s allegations and a related settlement, which Elaine said was in the millions of dollars. Elaine’s attorneys are now placing that deal in the context of the larger debate over sexual harassment and corporate responsibility, which has emerged following allegations against film producer Harvey Weinstein,” the report said.
While the Bloomberg report didn’t have the detail of that WSJ story, State Police Lt. Brian Conners—who works for the gaming commission’s IEB –forwarded a link of the article to his colleagues in the commission’s investigative bureau the day of its publication, according to an email obtained by MassLive.
Gaming commission spokesman Elaine Driscoll told MassLive that the head of the IEB, Karen Wells, did not read the Bloomberg account even though it was sent to her by Conners and didn’t know of the big settlement until the WSJ story.
Regardless, the gaming commission has said Wynn Resorts purposefully hid the settlement from regulators when it was going through its “suitability” review in 2014. That suitability is now being reviewed once again given the uncovered allegations against Steve Wynn. With Wynn having resigned from the company and having sold his financial interest in it, the suitability test is applied to Wynn Resorts, which holds the license. The commission has said it will wrap up its investigation by the summer.
With the license in question, the resolution of the investigation may turn on whether board members know of the settlement as well as other allegations against Wynn. It’s safe to say the Wynn company, the city of Everett and the people hoping to benefit from the economic boom of a new resort casino are freaking out.
Everett Mayor DeMaria has spoken out about the situation, saying he thinks it will be resolved positively for the city but that it is worrisome. The uncertainty has only fueled the rumor mill in the city. An anti-DeMaria newspaper, the Leader-Herald, has variously claimed, without any evidence, that:
• Steve Wynn was trying to sell the company. Wrong. He couldn’t. He owned only 12 percent of it.
• Mayor DeMaria maintained a “silence” on the Wynn situation. Even in the article that claimed the mayor’s silence, the reporter quoted a letter to the editor of another publication by DeMaria.
• New Wynn chairman Matthew Maddox knew about the sexual abuse allegations and would be fired. He has publicly said he didn’t know. The paper provided no evidence that he did.
• The Everett project will be sold. There is no evidence of that at this point.
Until the whole situation is resolved, irresponsible “reporting” is likely to continue, at least by that outlet.