What’s next in Wynn saga?
March 27, 2018 3:00 AM
by Phil Hevener
Nevada gaming regulators have generally earned respectable grades for their handling of the unexpected crises and industry opportunities that land on their desks.
It is much too early to guess about the outcome of the Gaming Control Board’s visit to questions about Steve Wynn’s surprising departure from the company that carries his name or whether the allegations of inappropriate behavior by the former chairman cast an unfavorable image of the state’s image conscious major industry, but it would be a major surprise if the state did not want to take a very close look.
After all, licenses like the one held by Wynn are a privilege and not a right.
But the Control Board’s journey to the center of what has transpired necessitates the search for answers to questions scarcely imagined by those who drafted regulations decades ago when Nevada was all alone in its dependence on casino resorts and the tax revenue they generate.
Yes, times have definitely changed and not everyone noticed the change in time to joined the march to new attitudes.
For instance, are casino regulators going to let the Wall Street Journal determine its priorities or will these stories be read carefully for hints about the best path to the future. I have often point out that the WSJ used to cover Nevada gaming by merely sending organized crime reporters to Las Vegas.
Sexual activity by executives or visitors did not rate a lot of attention or surprised looks in those days, a fact that does not excuse inappropriate behavior, but, uh, times have changed and maybe too many people missed the change.
But the Gaming Board and Gaming Commission have usually been adept at responding to the need for updates on operating rules for licensees even when it sometimes seems what they lack is a sense of humor. I recall some extended conversations about one casino’s billboard ad for the National Finals Rodeo. The billboard picture was a pair of a woman’s lower legs with panties down around her ankles.
The caption: “We’re going to buck all night.” I do not recall how long the billboard was up, but I would guess the Hard Rock Hotel got an inquiring phone call from someone at the Board.
The ability of the Board to deal with the unexpected was severely tested in 1979 when a Detroit federal court convicted several people who happened to be owners of what was then the Aladdin hotel and casino. It’s ancient history now and the Aladdin is gone, but in the spring and summer of 1979 the Aladdin was big news.
So what happened?
Casino controllers ordered the immediate sale of the resort, but when it did not occur to the satisfaction of casino regulators the casino was closed by the state until it was sold. To the surprise of many the casino was closed for about three months before it could be sold to a group that included Wayne Newton.
Something similar occurred several years later when the Board and Commission took away the licenses of the owners of the Stardust on the Strip and two Fremont Street casinos.
Going forward, the Wynn board will decide if they want to sell any of the components that include three Macau casinos, the Boston resort now under construction and whatever position the company may have in a proposed Japanese casino that still requires approval by lawmakers there; and company officials have said they will probably reassess some of the proposed development that has already been discussed.
As of last week, Galaxy Entertainment bought the remaining 5.3 million shares of Steve Wynn’s stock, which completely removes Mr. Wynn from the company. However, that does not end the ongoing investigation by regulators into Mr. Wynn and Wynn Resorts.
All this and who knows what else is running through the minds of officials who have seldom been faced with the need to assess the suitability of a licensee who has contributed so much to the community. What they will decide in the case of Wynn and Wynn Resorts remains to be seen.