The Nevada Gaming Commission (“NGC”) fined Wynn Resorts a record-breaking $20 million over the company’s failure to investigate sexual harassment and assault allegations against founder Steve Wynn.
Wynn, 77, who resigned from his position as chairman and CEO of the company last year, denied the allegations, and he is not personally liable for any part of the settlement. At the same time, Wynn also resigned from his role as finance chairman of the Republican National Committee.
While the NGC has frozen Wynn’s gaming license -- that is the extent of any disciplinary action taken against him or former company executives or board members named in the settlement. All of these individuals are no longer employed by Wynn Resorts.
Wynn has reportedly sold all of shares in the company. The prior state record against a Nevada gambling licensee was $5.5 million in 2014.
Decades of Complaints
Back in 2005, Wynn settled a claim from a former manicurist working for Wynn Resorts who said he raped and impregnated her. A cocktail waitress received nearly $1 million from Wynn after she alleged she was pressured to have sex with him from 2005 to 2006.
According to the NGC, Wynn Resorts made no effort to investigate the waitress’ complaint. In the case of the manicurist, however, her supervisor learned of her allegations and filed a “detailed report” with the company’s human resources department.
Overall, it appears Wynn behaved improperly with dozens of women, a pattern that continued for decades. He was apparently fond of exposing his genitals when having pedicures done in the nail salon, and other loathsome behavior.
The NGC determined that each time Wynn Resorts failed to conduct an investigation constituted a separate violation of the Gaming Control Act.
A Culture That Cannot Be Tolerated
The huge fine should send a message to gaming licensees nationwide that a culture of sexual assault and harassment is no longer tolerable. That’s the opinion of NGC chairman Tony Alamo, who added the fine does allow Wynn Resorts – a publicly traded company – the opportunity to heal.
As one NGC commissioner noted, the current board of Wynn Resorts and the executive leadership were not involved with the failure of the company to investigate allegations against Wynn, but “they’re left with the train wreck to try to fix it.”
Wynn Resorts points out its leadership has been completely overhauled, with women now making up 50 percent of board members. There is a new CEO, and the company has put new sexual harassment training in place for all employees. It has even initiated a women’s leadership council to promote workplace equality.
A Decision in Massachusetts
Issues relating to Steve Wynn aren’t over with the NGC decision. The company is also facing a decision by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) regarding whether it can operate a $2 billion casino now known as Encore Boston Harbor, which is scheduled to open in June. Previously, Wynn sued the MGC to prevent release of a report about its investigation, claiming violation of attorney-client privilege. While a judge has temporarily blocked the report’s release, a decision is expected soon.
On March 1, Massachusetts gaming regulators said they expected dismissal of Wynn’s lawsuit, which would allow the board to receive its own report dealing with the investigation into Wynn’s misconduct and finish its Encore Boston Harbor licensing review.
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