Gaming Commission Will Consider If Wynn Resorts Remains 'Suitable' To Hold Casino License

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The Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett is seen from Assembly Row in Somerville. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Encore Boston Harbor casino in Everett is seen from Assembly Row in Somerville. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Editor's Note: Here's a new story, on the commission's investigative report.

Massachusetts gaming commissioners will this week consider if Wynn Resorts remains suitable to hold the casino license for the Boston area.

The question of suitability comes less than three months before Wynn is set to open its $2.5 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino complex in Everett — and more than a year after Wynn founder and former CEO Steve Wynn resigned amid sexual misconduct allegations. One case led to a $7.5 million settlement.

Here, FAQ style, is what you should know about the hearing, which begins Tuesday:

If the commission strips Wynn Resorts of its gaming license, would the process start all over again? Would the Greater Boston casino even remain in Everett, where Wynn has spent those billions of dollars already?

That's unclear, since of course casino gambling and the gaming commission are relatively new here in Massachusetts. So there are no precedents. The gaming commission staff so far have declined any conjecture on whether someone else would just buy the Everett casino — possibly at a firesale price — or how far back the process might have to go. Clearly, it could ultimately wind up in court.

So exactly what is the commission trying to determine with this hearing?

It wants to learn why Wynn Resorts did not let the commission know about the settlement of those sexual assault allegations against Steve Wynn back in 2013. That's when the commission was trying to determine which entity should be awarded the casino license for the Boston area. Suffolk Downs was vying for that license as well and was considered the favorite.

Remember, back then, before the licenses were awarded, the commission was going to great lengths to ensure that whichever group got the license was squeaky clean and totally aboveboard. Applicants were supposed to bare their souls to commission investigators, and fess up to any sort of improprieties that might have been in the company's or company officials' backgrounds.

But Wynn didn't come clean then — at least not when it came to acknowledging the settlement with Steve Wynn's accuser, who actually was an employee with the company.

That's right. Last year, when this story first broke, the lead investigator from the gaming commission reached out to Wynn Resorts to ask if the company was aware of the settlement at the time the license was under consideration. The company said that it was. When the investigator asked why the company didn't inform the gaming commission at the time, company officials responded that they were advised by their counsel not to do so.

So, it will be up to the gaming commissioners to determine if that was a fatal sin that could cost Wynn Resorts the license.

The commission has blocked out three days this week to consider evidence in the case. How is this going to work?

The hearing is going to be a lot like a trial. The five members of the gaming commission will sit in judgment. Commission investigators will present an overview of what they found out. Attorneys for Wynn will have an opportunity to make an opening statement as well, and then commission staff will present evidence. The lawyers will ask questions of the witnesses, and the commissioners will be able to ask questions as well. Once all the evidence is presented, the commissioners will then meet in a closed session to deliberate.

There's no word on how long that could take — days, possibly weeks. They'll reach a decision and then that decision will be announced in a written statement.

What are the options the commission will have after this hearing is over?

Commission Executive Director Ed Bedrosian was asked that very question last week. I'll let him answer:

So the commission can make determinations on suitability, which include "still suitable" "not suitable" or "suitable with some type of conditions" or something like that, but I'm not speculating on the outcome of course.

Bedrosian says suitability is an ongoing determination by the commission. In other words, commissioners can revisit the issue of suitability any time.

Is Wynn Resorts showing any signs of giving up setting up shop here in Boston?

No, not at all. Of course they've distanced themselves from Steve Wynn; he's no longer with the company, and they even changed the name of the resort to Encore Boston Harbor. (It was originally supposed to have Wynn's name on it.) They've been hiring in anticipation of a June opening. They held two job fairs in the hopes of filling 5,800 positions. You can even go on their website and book a room.

This segment aired on April 2, 2019.

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Steve Brown Senior Reporter/Anchor
Steve Brown is a veteran broadcast journalist who serves as WBUR's senior State House reporter.



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