Vegas, Wynn impacted by changing times

Vegas, Wynn impacted by changing times

February 06, 2018 3:11 AM


In the fraternity of old gaming executives, when the Wall Street Journal story broke about the Steve Wynn allegations the phones lit up and the old, now legendary, stories and reminiscences of the philandering’s of some of the since departed casino pioneers, owners and CEOs became the chat of the day.

Recounts of a certain executive who had created an entire alter ego to hide his antics were humorous, and how more than one exec was asked by another to hire someone to help them out of a tight spot was met with a lot of you too comments.

For most, the tone was akin to the famous scene in the movie classic “Casablanca” wherein the Claude Rains character Captain Renault decries, “I am shocked, shocked to find gambling is going on in here!” while a croupier approaches him saying, “Your winnings sir.” To which Captain Renault replies, “Oh, thank you very much!”

For others the commentary shifted to how the senses of morality have changed and if the extracurricular actions of some past and certain present gaming executives would now bar them from a gaming license when not that many years ago those same actions and exploits were simply ignored by the licensing authorities.

In fairness to Mr. Wynn, it is completely unfair for anyone who was not in the room to judge what did or did not happen, and while the amount of the acknowledged settlement, to some, might be deemed an admission of the allegations, there has been more than one wealthy person who has resolved claims to avoid distraction, speculations or public scrutiny and ridicule.

For most of us $7.5 million is a lot of money, but for a billionaire it is not that much. Let’s say at the time of the settlement Mr. Wynn was worth $1 billion; then that $7.5 million settlement would equate 0.75% of his wealth. In another context, for a person worth $100,000 to make the same percentage settlement would cost $750. How much would you pay to resolve potentially embarrassing claims, real or not?

To be certain, if Mr. Wynn is guilty of all or even a portion of all that is claimed he should of course pay the price. Conversely, if he is not guilty he will never be able to regain his full reputation as the court of public opinion has pretty much already passed judgement.

Guilty or not, the events around Mr. Wynn should be an object lesson for all gaming executives. Any executive that has a private one-on-one closed-door meeting with a member of the opposite sex is inviting not only a risk of sexual harassment claims but the risk of gossip and speculation that will lend credibility to any other gossip or claims of harassment.

Any senior executive who frivolously jokes or flirts with a subordinate member of the opposite sex may no longer be considered gregarious but suspected of being a harasser. Any executive that wants to use their property’s spa should go with at least one other executive or guest. More than one executive has suffered the gossip and speculations, rightly and wrongly, about getting a private massage.

The ultimate lesson for gaming executives is simple – is what you are doing worth risking your gaming license. If not, don’t do it. After all, nothing is private anymore.

Gaming licensing is and always has been a bit oxymoronic in that the regulators want their licensees to demonstrate they have good and moral character along with business probity so they can qualify for a license to promote drinking and gambling in an adult environment where many of the entertainers and cocktail servers perform their duties in skimpy and very revealing costumes.

Over the history, regulators have on more than one occasion ignored an applicant’s past, citing that the questionable applicant has either already paid for their crimes, or they happened so long ago the offenses are no longer relevant, or their skill sets are now needed in the legal and regulated gaming world.

However, times and social moralities have changed, and the priorities and societal pressures on the regulatory processes are now more exacting and demanding than in any past times. As such, those personal indiscretions that were laughed or waved off years ago as “boys being boys” are now potentially the source of front page news and can be career impacting if not career ending.

While I hope the various regulatory reviews find the truth about the various allegations and justice is served, I can not help but wonder if in retrospect Mr. Wynn now wishes he had simply given back to Elaine Wynn her share of voting rights and avoided the current maelstrom.