By Josh Resnek
On Monday April 1 at the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, Encore takes center stage in an ongoing play that has been running for better or worse since Steven Wynn tumbled from his mighty perch as the owner and leader of Wynn Resorts.
On Monday begins a set of excruciating hearings expected to last at least several days and ending, ultimately with Encore receiving its license to operate the Wynn Resorts Casino and Hotel, or not.
If its receives the license, without which it cannot operate, all is said and done with the drama surrounding the expected opening on June 23.
If the MGC denies Wynn Resorts the license, it is a major disaster not just for Wynn Resorts, but for this city.
The city is depending on a $30 million payment to be handed over to the city treasury on the day the casino/hotel opens its doors.
Without that payment, the city will be hard pressed to meet its financial obligations.
With that payment, with the doors swinging open and the gaming machines and playing tables all generating big income and the hotel packed – well – it is a new day dawning in this city and for many years to come.
After months of legal delays, the five-member commission has received its agency’s Investigations and Enforcement Bureau report detailing whether Wynn Resorts purposely withheld knowledge of the company’s founder and former CEO’s alleged sexual misconduct during its 2013 bidding for the Boston- area gaming license.
Wynn Resorts beat out a competing bid from Mohegan Sun and Suffolk Downs horse racetrack. At the time of being awarded the Region B license, the MGC concluded that Steve Wynn was “highly ethical,” and “a perfectionist who is passionate about everything he does.”
The commission will decide whether to impose a financial penalty on the casino operator, or worse yet – revoke the $2.6 billion dollar investment by Wynn Resorts.
What exactly the MGC, headed by a new chairperson, Attorney Cathy Judd-Stein, is going to do remains cloaked in mystery.
The prevailing wisdom on the street is that the MGC will mimic the Nevada Gaming Commission by handing Wynn Resorts a huge fine, slapping them on the wrists, and then getting on with the business of opening the doors as fast as possible to casino and hotel.
Again, industry experts all predict that the MGC will not be as concerned with ethics and legal judgments as it will be interested in the new company that has come to be.
Since Steve Wynn sold his stock and got out of Dodge following revelations that he was allegedly a serial sexual harasser of his employees for many years, the company has changed itself around.
In the lead up to the Massachusetts gaming hearings, Wynn Resorts continues to do damage control in an effort to highlight its changed culture. New CEO Matt Maddox says the company has never been about one man, and highlights the leadership overhaul as an important step the company has taken since his billionaire mentor resigned more than a year ago.
“Over the past 12 months, Wynn Resorts has undergone a corporate transformation,” a Wynn release filed with the MGC declares. “The individuals who failed to live up to the company’s high standards and values have all been removed.”
Wynn’s $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor is scheduled to open June 23, and the property is now taking reservations. The MGC’s decision to revoke the casino’s operating permit would suspend thousands of jobs, and likely lead to millions of dollars in lost tax revenue and regional economic benefits.
That’s why some analysts believe the commission will simply impose a fine on the casino operator for failing to disclose the sexual allegations, should the MGC determine they were known.
However, if the MGC does indeed pull the license, Mohegan Sun says it would be interested in acquiring the integrated casino resort and entering the Massachusetts market. “Mohegan Sun is prepared to participate in a process that would assign that license to another operator,” the tribal gaming group said late last year.
The big question mark is how the new chair Judd- Stein is going to move the MGC.
What she is going to propose and whether or not she has the votes to control the MGC.
Governor Baker’s sudden firing of Stephen Crosby six months ago was reported as Crosby resigning, which was very unlikely.
Why the governor got rid of Crosby, what Crosby did to get himself yanked from the MGC, is one thing. Judd-Stein’s persona as an ethics expert who has served five governors, is another.
Does she accept Massachusetts as being another Nevada, slapping thew wrists of Wynn Resorts and fining them and saying everything is fine?
Or does she deny them the license, throwing the whole mess into a brief period of chaos?
There are provisions in the MGC gaming laws that provide for a conservator to be appointed, for everything to proceed and for a new buyer to be found.
Is Massachusetts the new Nevada?
We will shortly find this out.
Who owns the place doesn’t matter as much as the place opening and becoming a success.