Regulators in Massachusetts have cleared the way for the state’s second resort casino to open next month.
Concluding a 15-month investigation, the Massachusetts Gaming Commission decided that Wynn Resorts can keep the license for its Boston-area casino, but must pay a $35 million fine and accept other conditions because of how the company handled sexual misconduct allegations against founder and former CEO Steve Wynn.
The commission’s much-anticipated decision was issued in writing Tuesday evening, and announced Wednesday morning by commission chair Cathy Judd-Stein at the start of a regularly scheduled meeting.
"Although the commission did not find substantial evidence necessary to disrupt the licensee's suitability status, the decision speaks for itself. We, the entire commission, were profoundly disturbed by repeated systemic failures and the pervasive culture of non-disclosure," said Judd-Stein.
In addition to the hefty fine, Wynn Resorts will be required to provide training in sexual harassment and discrimination prevention to all its employees, and pay for an independent monitor to evaluate the procedural changes adopted since Steve Wynn left the company more than a year ago.
The commission, in its written decision, said it set $35 million as the amount to fine Wynn Resorts because it was “sizeable enough to have a meaningful impact.” The fine, and other conditions, are intended as both punishment and deterrence, said Judd-Stein.
"Given our findings, it is now in the interest of the Commonwealth that the gaming licensee move forward establishing and maintaining a successful gaming establishment here in Massachusetts," said Judd-Stein.
Wynn’s $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor casino is scheduled to open on June 23.
Commissioner Enrique Zuniga said the gaming regulators did not rush their deliberations.
"We thought we were going to be addressing this issue a little earlier than we have, and there was this real milestone, if you will, lingering in the horizon with the scheduled opening of this operation. But, at no time did we want to compromise and I don't feel that we did," said Zuniga.
The grand opening for the eastern Massachusetts casino will come roughly 10 months after the doors opened at MGM Springfield.
Built along the Mystic River in Everett just north of Boston, the new casino is touted as the largest single-phase private development in the history of the state. It is to employ about 5,000 people.
Officials in Everett reacted with relief that more than a year of uncertainty is over.
City Councilor Mike McLaughlin, speaking with WCVB-TV, highlighted the jobs and tax dollars the casino will bring.
"I think it is a fair decision. I think it is the right decision and I look forward to seeing my neighbors and the people I represent gonig to work in the next few weeks," he said.
Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria Tweeted his reaction to the commission’s decision, declaring it “truly a great day for the people of Everett.”
In a statement, Wynn Resorts said it would carefully review the commission’s 54-page ruling. The company could appeal the decision in court.
The commissioners were particularly harsh on Wynn Resorts CEO Matt Maddox. He was ordered to individually pay a $500,000 fine and to have “coaching and training” about leadership development, internal communications, and human resources issues.
Maddox, who was Steve Wynn’s hand-picked successor, was grilled by commissioner during last month’s adjudicatory hearing on his failures to report to gaming regulators what he knew about settlements and sexual misconduct allegations involving Steve Wynn.
There was a split vote by the five-member commission on whether Maddox should be allowed to head a casino company doing business in Massachusetts, according to the written decision.