The Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided on Wednesday to open an investigation into U.S.-based casino operator Wynn Resorts Ltd and the firm’s founder and chairman-cum-chief executive, Steve Wynn (pictured).
The Massachusetts regulator will look into allegations of sexual misconduct made against Mr Wynn by former Wynn Resorts employees in a Wall Street Journal article published last week. Mr Wynn has denied the allegations.
One of the issues to be investigated involves allegations by a manicurist that allegedly received a US$7.5-million settlement from Mr Wynn after complaining he ordered her to have sexual relations with him in 2005. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission claims it was never informed of the settlement during the suitability review process of Mr Wynn and Wynn Resorts that eventually led to the firm receiving a gaming licence from the state authorities in 2014.
Wynn Resorts is currently developing a casino property in Boston, in Massachusetts. The US$2.4-billion project is scheduled to open in 2019.
“The circumstances around this US$7.5 million settlement and the decision not to disclose it to investigators during the suitability investigation remain a critical element of this review,” Karen Wells, director of the Massachusetts regulator’s investigations and enforcement bureau, said on Wednesday during a commission meeting, according to media reports.
Ms Wells added that a lawyer for Wynn Resorts had already confirmed the existence of the US$7.5 million settlement. The lawyer allegedly explained the deal had not been disclosed to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission “upon advice of counsel” and because – since it was an extrajudicial agreement – there were no court documents that could have been provided to the regulator.
In a statement quoted by U.S. media outlets, Wynn Resorts said it planned to cooperate with the Massachusetts regulator’s investigation.
“We respect the process outlined by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission and will cooperate fully with the investigation,” a Wynn Resorts spokesperson said.
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission’s decision follows a similar move by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The Nevada regulator announced on Wednesday it would launch a formal investigation into the allegations of sexual misconduct made against Mr Wynn.
Wynn Resorts – with gaming operations in Las Vegas, Nevada – is the parent company of Macau-based casino operator Wynn Macau Ltd. Mr Wynn is also chairman and chief executive of Wynn Macau Ltd.
The Macau regulator – the Gaming Inspection and Coordination Bureau, a body also known by its Portuguese acronym DICJ – met on Monday with representatives from Wynn Macau Ltd “better to understand the situation” regarding the allegations against Mr Wynn.
Wynn Resorts announced on Friday it would form a special committee consisting solely of independent directors to investigate the claims against Mr Wynn. It will be chaired by Patricia Mulroy, a member of the board’s corporate governance and compliance committees and a former member of the Nevada Gaming Commission.
The allegations of sexual misconduct against Mr Wynn also led Standard & Poor’s Global Ratings to revise on Tuesday its outlook on Wynn Resorts and its subsidiaries – including its Macau unit – to “negative” from “stable”. The ratings agency said the negative outlook reflects the “significant uncertainty” over the resolution of various investigations into the sexual misconduct allegations.
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”We do not believe that reopening the advance notice nomination deadline [for board directors] is appropriate or justified”
Daniel Boone Wayson
Chairman of the Wynn Resorts board of directors