Judge dismisses Nevada gaming regulators effort to find Steve Wynn unsuitable

November 20, 2020 9:30 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports
November 20, 2020 9:30 PM
  • Howard Stutz, CDC Gaming Reports

A Las Vegas judge said Nevada gaming regulators no longer have any jurisdiction over former casino mogul Steve Wynn and dismissed an effort to find the disgraced gambling operator unsuitable to hold a gaming license since he is no longer associated with Wynn Resorts.

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In a ruling signed Thursday, Clark County District Judge Adriana Escobar agreed with arguments brought by Wynn’s attorneys that Steve Wynn’s resignation in February 2018 as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts and the sale of his holdings in the company removed the Nevada Gaming Commission’s oversight.

“Respondents fail to provide any authority supporting their jurisdiction over a person no longer involved in Nevada’s gaming industry in any capacity,” Escobar wrote. “Importantly, respondents fail to support their position that they have jurisdiction over a person with no intent to be involved in Nevada’s gaming industry in the future. Why? There is none.”

In a statement, the Nevada Gaming Control Board said it “is reviewing the substance of the court’s ruling, and, in consultation with its attorneys, will make decisions regarding its next steps soon.”

The Control Board filed a complaint in October 2019 that sought to label Steve Wynn “unsuitable to be associated with a gaming enterprise or the gaming industry as a whole.” Two months later, the Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously ruled it had the authority and jurisdiction to rule in the matter but allowed Wynn’s attorney to seek a judicial review.

Two hearings on the case were held by the court over video on Sept. 17 and Nov. 17.

Escobar agreed with the arguments made by Las Vegas attorney Don Campbell, Wynn’s lawyer, who said the five-count-complaint against Steve Wynn was moot. The former gaming executive resigned a week after a Wall Street Journal article uncovered years of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations by Steve Wynn against employees. He has denied the allegations.

The first four counts primarily covered the sexual misconduct and harassment allegations. The fifth count alleged Wynn failed to appear and testify at a Gaming Control Board investigative hearing.

Campbell told the Gaming Commission at the December hearing Wynn had moved out of a company-owned villa along the Wynn Las Vegas golf course.

“He has no control over Wynn Resorts as a matter of law, no financial interest and he no longer exercises any control,” Campbell said. “In less than 90 days, he ended all personal involvement and ended a nearly 50-year career in Nevada gaming.”

In her ruling, Escobar said attorneys representing state gaming regulators “conceded that respondents have never sought to investigate, discipline, or fine a person that has completely divested themselves of the gaming industry with no intent of returning prior to the Board’s filing of the underlying complaint.

Wynn Resorts underwent a complete makeover following Steve Wynn’s departure, with a remake of the company’s board, new leadership in the executive suite, and new policies directed toward sexual harassment prevention. A compliance committee was created with numerous procedures to prevent any harassment allegation from going unchecked.

In February 2019, the company paid a $20 million fine – the largest in Nevada history – to the Gaming Commission to settle a 10-count complaint that detailed years of failure by former company executives to “report and/or investigate” numerous allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn. Massachusetts gaming regulators slapped a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts three months later.

Last year, the Nevada Gaming Commission approved a regulation to enhance protections for casino industry employees against workplace harassment or discrimination. The rule requires gaming businesses with more than 15 employees to adopt and implement written procedures prohibiting such activity.

Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at hstutz@cdcgaming.com. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.