Interim Massachusetts Gaming Commission Chair Addresses Wynn Suit

Dec 6, 2018

The interim chair of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission is acknowledging regulators are frustrated there is uncertainty around the casino project in eastern Mass.

A lawsuit has delayed the release of an investigation into former casino mogul Steve Wynn and the company he founded. Wynn has been accused of sexual harassment and rape.

Regulators will decide if the company can keep the license for its planned Everett casino.

During its meeting Thursday, Commissioner Gayle Cameron read a statement about the matter.

"My fellow commissioners and I are ready to adjudicate this matter, and eager to assess the findings, identifying a viable way to bring the investigation to a close is an urgent priority," Cameron said. 

Last month, Steve Wynn sued the commission and his former company over the investigation.

Commissioners on Thursday also met with their lawyers behind closed doors to discuss the matter.

The commission initially hoped to begin its adjudicatory process in September, then the timeline was pushed to October and eventually to December.

Executive Director Edward Bedrosian on Thursday declined to "lock the process into a particular timeframe" when Commissioner Enrique Zuniga asked how much of a delay the Wynn litigation has caused, but said that "absent this litigation, I would have anticipated that the commission would have been in the adjudicatory process at this point."

Cameron said it is critical that commissioners do not involve themselves in the investigation and allow the Investigations and Enforcement Bureau to finish its work.

Adding another wrinkle to the commission's circuitous process is the fact that the commission is currently short one regulator.

Stephen Crosby resigned as Gaming Commission chairman in September amid accusations of bias in the Wynn matter and Governor Charlie Baker has not yet filled the fifth position on the commission.

"Both IEB and the licensee will hopefully soon present evidence orally or in writing and the commissioners will then have unrestricted opportunity to ask questions of both the IEB and the licensee," Cameron said. "Since the commissioners, the four of us, sit as the judges in this adjudicatory proceeding, we must make our decision impartially based solely on the evidence before us. We must not in any way have access to investigations materials prior to the adjudicatory process."

Before Wynn filed his lawsuit, Bedrosian had told commissioners that the IEB was close to wrapping up its work and he estimated that commissioners would soon receive "hundreds of pages of documents" related to the investigation. After Wynn filed his lawsuit in early November, Bedrosian told commissioners that they will not receive any documents related to the case until the litigation is resolved.

Though it is unclear what would happen in the event the Gaming Commission decides to revoke Wynn Resorts' casino license, competitor Mohegan Sun has said it would be interested in buying what Wynn Resorts has described as a $2.5 billion casino project.

"If that determination finds Wynn Resorts unsuitable to hold a gaming license in Massachusetts, Mohegan Sun is prepared to participate in a process that would assign that license to another operator – and enter into negotiations with the appropriate parties to acquire the facility under construction in Everett," the company, which was unsuccessful in its previous attempts to secure the Boston-area casino license, said in a statement last week. "Mohegan Sun has always believed it is the best choice as gaming operator and license holder for a Region A resort casino, and will be committed to opening the Everett facility in a timely manner should it get the opportunity." 

Nevada Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has scheduled a status check in the Wynn matter for December 13 to discuss scheduling a preliminary injunction hearing, according to court records.

Encore Boston Harbor, the name given by Wynn resorts to the Everett casino, is currently scheduled to open in June 2019.

This report includes information from State House News Service.