The Massachusetts gambling regulator said on Monday it accepted that entrepreneur Steve Wynn (pictured) no longer had a business relationship with casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd, and the firm could therefore remove his name from the licensing agreement for the under-development Boston Harbor casino project.
That could also pave the way for the brand name “Wynn” to be removed from the actual structure, separately reported Reuters and the Associated Press.
The firm has proposed the alternative name “Encore Boston Harbor”, rather than “Wynn Boston Harbor”, as had previously been mooted.
The Associated Press suggested – without citing sources – that such practical and symbolic changes would not be enough to end the state’s investigation into Wynn Resorts in terms of its handling of the sexual misconduct allegations against the group’s ousted founder and chairman Steve Wynn. Mr Wynn resigned from his posts in February and has since sold his entire stake in the firm. The businessman has denied any wrongdoing.
Wynn Resorts is the parent of Macau casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd.
In its Monday statement, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission said it decided that there was “substantial evidence that the relationship between Mr Wynn and Wynn Resorts has been terminated in a meaningful way such that Mr Wynn no longer falls within the definition of qualifier at the conclusion of the upcoming annual shareholders meeting.” Wynn Resorts’ annual meeting is in Las Vegas, Nevada, on May 16.
Under Massachusetts law, those deemed “qualifiers” in the gaming licensing context must pass a state background check to determine suitability to hold a licence.
In other developments, Mr Wynn’s ex-wife Elaine Wynn, continued her lobbying for changes to the current leadership of the company.
A Monday filing to Nasdaq said Ms Wynn had launched a website called RestoreWynn.com in support of her lobbying, and which claimed, amongst other things, that Wynn Resorts’ reported willingness to consider disposal of the Boston Harbor project was due to the board’s concern about Massachusetts’ probe of the sexual misconduct allegations, and “who knew what and when”.
A filing on Sunday from Ms Wynn had welcomed a decision of proxy services firm, Institutional Shareholder Services Inc (ISS), to advise Wynn Resorts stockholders to withhold their vote for director Jay Hagenbuch at the annual meeting. On May 3 Glass, Lewis & Co LLC also recommended that shareholders withhold support for the board member, who is seeking re-election.
Ms Wynn said in a slide presentation called “Restore Wynn” filed with Nasdaq that withholding support for Mr Hagenbuch would “serve as a referendum on all of the long-standing legacy directors, who personify the company’s severe governance deficiencies”.
Wynn Resorts had said in a Sunday response to ISS, that the organisation had “placed symbolism ahead of pragmatism”.
But the casino firm additionally noted that ISS had also not advocated specific proposals made by Ms Wynn.
“ISS clearly recognises the weaknesses in Elaine Wynn’s campaign and notes that her arguments very well might be motivated by personal animosity. It also highlights her position as a member of the Wynn board for a prolonged period of time and questions her own culpability for many of the things for which she now criticises the board,” said Wynn Resorts.
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"I am not going to speculate on what the [casino licence refreshment] tender requirements would be. I have full confidence and faith in the Macau government to treat everyone fairly"
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President and chief operating officer of Macau-based casino operator Sands China