Texas Gaming Expert Predicts Encore Boston Keeps Its Casino License

Encore Boston Harbor Report

Dr. Barrow thinks the Gaming Commission will shift blame from itself to Wynn Resorts — and especially Steve Wynn.

A prominent gaming analyst predicted the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) would clear Wynn Resorts of wrongdoing in its upcoming report on Encore Boston Harbor’s gaming license. The Gaming Commission says it will release its report on 7-month investigation into Wynn Resorts’ conduct vis a vis Steve Wynn, its founder and former CEO.

The Massachusetts Gaming Commission announced in May 2018 it would investigate the conduct of 13 separate Wynn Resorts executives over the past 10 years. The goal of the investigation was to determine whether Wynn board members were either negligent or complicit in a coverup of Steve Wynn’s alleged wrongdoing.

Numerous current and former employees of Wynn Resorts claimed they were sexually harassed by Steve Wynn over the years. Wynn Resorts salon workers made most of the claims. When the allegations first went public in January 2018, they forced the powerful executive out of the Las Vegas casino company he created.

Steve Wynn denied wrongdoing and claimed the allegations were part of a bitter divorce battle he had with his former wife, Elaine Wynn. Back in 2015, Elaine Wynn charged in a whistleblower case that board members knew of hush payments for (then) unspecified wrondoing. By 2018, she was claiming that Wynn board members needed to be purged, because they were complicit in Steve Wynn’s wrongdoing — they knew about it and did nothing but approve settlements to keep them secret.

“They’ll Put It All on Wynn”

Dr. Clyde Barrow, a gaming expert and professor at the University of Texas: Rio Grande Valley, predicts the Massachusetts Gaming Commission will blame Steve Wynn for the wrongdoing, but is likely to give the board of directors a pass. Barrow said the Massachusetts Gaming Commission first will give themselves an A-rating on its own conduct.

Because the Gaming Commission could be criticized for failing to spot Steve Wynn’s misconduct during its licensing process from 2013 to 2015, the commission will take care to absolve its former and current memgers.

In statements this week, Dr. Barrow said, “They’ll put it all on [Steve] Wynn. It’ll look bad for Wynn, and the commission will plead, ‘We didn’t know to look for it, and they withheld information.'”

If the MGC chooses to focus on their own lack of culpability, it could spell trouble for the Wynn board of directors. If the Gaming Commission claims “they withheld information”, at least certain current members of the board would bear responsibility for withholding that information from Massachusetts regulators.

“To What Level Was There Nondisclosure?”

Paul Debole, a Lasell College professor, said proving the board was complicit will be difficult to do. Professor Debole said the question of whether Wynn Resorts/Encore was complicit in the nondisclosure is key.

He added, “If the public record doesn’t reveal anything, and if no one tells them, then there’s no real way for them to get a bead on it. To what level was there nondisclosure?”

MGC Must Give a Mea Culpa

Boston College professor, the Rev. Richard McGowan, said the investigators are going to have admit they were lax in their vetting process. McGowan said, “They’re going to have to put a mea culpa on themselves. The report is going to say, ‘We wish we had done a better job initially.'”

Sources inside the probe say investigators have focused on a 2014 mediation on a wrongful termination case by a former Wynn employee. The mediation documents show that the employee claimed Steve Wynn engaged in sexual misconduct — a charge investigators said “came out of left field” at the time.

Because mediation of a wrongful termination case is almost certain to have came to the attention of board members, they cannot claim they never heard such charges. They have to explain to regulators why such allegations were not followed up on.

Before the #MeToo Era

Barrow said one likely excuse is the timing involved. When the Gaming Commission first investigated Wynn’s background in 2013, it was before the #MeToo movement which brought so much attention to workplace sexual harassment. The regulators can claim they were not focused on misconduct in the workplace, because it was a different era.

The Texas professor said, “They weren’t asking about that at all. Massachusetts did follow the process that I think would have been considered standard anywhere in the country.”

Whether that is a proper excuse is another matter, but it is the truth about most regulators throughout the country. Before the #MeToo movement began to change public perceptions of what is right or wrong in the workplace, sexual harassment and the casting couch was often overlooked.

Encore: Too Big to Fail

Ultimately, suggests Clyde Barrow, Encore Boston Harbor is too big to fail. With $2.4 billion invested in the local economy and thousands of permanent jobs on the line when the casino opens in a few months, the Gaming Commission would do the people of Boston (especially Everett) a disservice in taking away the casino company’s license.