Wynn Resorts is now questioning the validity of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission hearing reviewing its suitability as a gaming license holder. This comes in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against its founder and former CEO.
In a post-hearing brief filed last week, Wynn Resorts goes as far as questioning whether gaming regulators violated both the company’s and its executives’ right to due process.
The fate of Encore Boston Harbor
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission held the three-day hearing beginning April 2. Ultimately, the aim of the hearing was to decide the fate of the Encore Boston Harbor casino project in Everett.
The $2.6 billion casino resort is currently in its final phase of construction. Owner Wynn Resorts is planning to open the doors this June.
However, the Commission has decided it must determine Wynn Resorts’ suitability as a casino operator first.
At issue is a series of sexual harassment allegations against Wynn Resorts founder and former CEO Steve Wynn. The allegations were first published by the Wall Street Journal in January 2018. The Commission is also looking into whether Wynn Resorts held back information regarding the allegations.
Steve Wynn has since stepped down from the company. Wynn Resorts has made great efforts to distance the project from the controversy. This includes changing its name from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor.
The Commission had its Investigations and Enforcement Bureau to look into the allegations. Its findings were released at this month’s hearing, although the findings did not include a recommendation regarding Wynn Resorts’ suitability.
The Commission is deliberating now and a decision is expected over the next few weeks.
Wynn Resorts claims due process denied
Though the intense interrogations are over, tension is still palpable. In a new twist, Wynn Resorts’ post-hearing brief argues the Commission “shifted the burden” to Wynn Resorts to prove its suitability. Rather than having investigators provide evidence it has failed to maintain it.
In fact, Wynn Resorts argues that since the Commission’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau didn’t make a recommendation to regulators regarding it suitability, the hearing should not have gone forward at all.
Wynn Resorts called the entire process something akin to a defendant in a criminal trial having to prove innocence rather than the state proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
It’s unclear whether the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will respond to the post-hearing brief.
The Commission may ultimately decide Wynn Resorts can keep its license and Encore Boston Harbor will open on schedule. If so, the issues raised by the brief will likely go away.
Wynn Resorts Chairman Phil Satre says the company will not fight to stay in Massachusetts should the Commission pull its license.
However, the allegations in the post-hearing brief could be laying the groundwork for a lawsuit. That is if Wynn Resorts loses its license and wants to try to recover some of the billions it has spent on the project.