In what could further endanger Wynn Resorts’ hold on its casino license, a former co-owner of the Everett land on which the under-construction resort casino sits is suing Wynn saying it reneged on a secret deal to pay the co-owner $20 million. It’s yet another development that the state gaming commission cold consider as it investigates whether Wynn Resorts is “suitable” to hold its license. Wynn denies there was ever such a deal.
Minority land owner Anthony Gattineri now says he had a secret side deal with Wynn in which he agreed to sign onto a 2014 land-purchase agreement but that Wynn would pay him $20 million more than Gattineri’s share of the purchase price. All of this was unbeknownst to the state gaming commission at the time.
If the claims about a secret deal are factual, it could spell more trouble for Wynn. The state gaming commission is already investigating whether Wynn is still “suitable” to hold the license after the disclosure of a multimillion-dollar payment to a former Wynn Resorts manicurist to settle sexual misconduct claims against Steve Wynn. The commission wants to know who knew what, when—particularly the board of directors. The founder was subsequently removed from the company and he sold his stock.
Back in 2014, it was discovered that Charles Lightbody, a convicted felon, was an owner of the would-be casino land. To be sure Lightbody did not see a windfall from the deal, the gaming commission ordered the land be sold at market price. Gattineri, also a co-owner, objected and refused to go along, saying the land was worth more than the $35 million purchase price, casino or not. No Gattineri, no land deal.
According to the new lawsuit, Wynn agreed to secretly pay Gattineri nearly $20 million to “make him whole” if he signed on. He did. And now he says Wynn never paid up.
The complaint says, “[Wynn Massachusetts President] Robert DeSalvio then made Anthony Gattineri the following offer: if Anthony Gattineri signed the required Certificate and Wynn obtained the casino license for a casino …Wynn would “make Anthony Gattineri whole” by providing him with his percentage of the purchase price reduction (which is $18,676,000)…Wynn, however, has refused to either make the agreed payment to Anthony Gattineri or to make arrangements to do so. It now seems painfully apparent that Wynn never had any intention of honoring its agreement.”
Encore Boston Harbor [Wynn’s new name for its Everett development] said in statement says the Gattineri lawsuit is nonsense. “This is an attempt to now extract an additional multi-million-dollar payment from our company beyond what was negotiated and accepted by Mr. Gattineri and his partners in the Everett land transaction,” Greg John, the casino spokesman said as quoted in the Boston Herald. “Mr. Gattineri’s claim that a publicly-traded company in a highly-regulated industry would execute a $20 million transaction on a handshake deal, without any documentation or paperwork, is implausible and will be vigorously defended by Wynn.”