Tim Poster's exit a 'Wynner' for Wynn

Dec 24, 2013 3:08 AM

Tim Poster’s unwillingness to pursue a suitability finding in Nevada may have smoothed the way to a Massachusetts license for Steve Wynn who awaits the green light that will enable him to “revive the era of the grand hotel” with a casino resort in the Boston area.

Since the Massachusetts Gaming Commission continues obsessing about issues that have nothing to do with the project Wynn has in mind, it is easy to imagine Wynn strategists wishing Poster would pack up his own concerns and get out of the way.

Which is exactly what happened.

Weeks before Wynn had complained in one of his can-you-believe-this tones about what he saw as the unnecessary overreach of Massachusetts investigators probing the private lives of his board members and executives.

Poster had risen to the top ranks of executives at Wynn Resorts earlier this year, resigning only when it became apparent efforts to get a license for his own investment company might conflict with his duties as a senior Wynn executive.

I’m wondering if the agents of the MGC might have relished the opportunity to question a Wynn executive whose five- and six-figure sports bets were getting so much attention back in Nevada.

The issues of images and appearances can be very volatile.

Poster had told the Gaming Control Board several weeks ago he had a chance to return to his duties at Wynn, assuming the Board found him suitable. Well, its three members did not find him suitable. When a Board member asked Poster if he might have a gambling problem, I could imagine Poster replying with a surprised expression that, no, he did not have any problem gambling.

What’s a multimillionaire like Poster to do except press things to the limit? One of the biggest industries in Massachusetts is illegal sports betting, so I’ve been told. Casinos may be legal there but sports betting is not.

So Poster left the Control Board hearing needing the unanimous vote of the Gaming Commission if that Board action was to be overturned.

There were big decisions to be made. His first inclination was to get in front of the Commission and convince them he really is a suitable kind of guy.

But was that the smartest move? There was a lot riding on his decision: to appeal or not to appeal. Yes, that was the question.

The fact that his decision was made in a hurry is suggested by the fact Las Vegas’s leading daily newspaper had two conflicting stories in its online edition – the first one saying Poster would appeal the Board’s rejection, the second noting he had decided to accept the Control Board’s rejection.

As it is, Poster will have opportunities to work as a consultant, a role or label that has always been something of an escape hatch for effective but controversial casino development specialists who often had reputations as, well…let’s call them free spirits.

I remember a Hilton executive telling me he was bringing the late Dan Chandler on board to boost casino business. We both knew Chandler was one of those effective but controversial personalities whose presence sent up red flags at the Board.

Chandler told me one day that he thought he held the record for being hired and fired at Caesars World, not that the always affable Chandler was ever accused or convicted of anything of significance. His presence could be enough to set off alarms.

The Hilton executive grinned, “I can probably get five or six good months out of him before the Board calls him in.”

On the other hand, who you can call on for a favor sometimes makes all the difference in the world.

There was a Control Board hearing in the late 1970s when the Board ruled that a certain executive in the casino organization owned by the late Major Riddle was not suitable.

That was reversed several weeks later when the Gaming Commission quietly decided – unanimously – without much conversation that the executive in question should be found suitable.

What had happened?

The powers that be in the local federal building had urged gaming regulators to keep the executive on the job. The “unsuitable” executive was an FBI informant.

The moral of this story: there may be more than meets the eye to some happenings and that makes the gaming industry an interesting place.

Phil Hevener has been writing about the Nevada gaming business for more than 30 years. He can be reached at [email protected].

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