LAS VEGAS -- Nevada gambling regulators unanimously declared Thursday they have jurisdiction to discipline former Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn over allegations of workplace sexual misconduct. His attorneys had argued that the state has no authority because Wynn isn’t licensed or involved in the gambling industry.
The Nevada Gaming Commission did not, however, decide whether to fine Wynn up to $500,000 and declare him unsuitable to renew ties to gambling in the state where Wynn spent nearly 50 years leading Las Vegas’ transformation from slot machines and showrooms to a glittery international destination.
“This is our only task today,” commission Chairman Tony Alamo said in opening a hearing that Wynn did not attend, “to determine if the commission has the authority to hear this case.”
After the decision, Wynn attorney Donald Campbell made it clear to reporters that commission action on a fine or suitability won’t happen soon.
“We’re going to go to the (state) Supreme Court,” he said, to decide the jurisdiction question and to determine if state Gaming Control Board regulators had authority to put what they called an “administrative hold” on Wynn’s license following media reports about several women alleging Wynn sexually harassed or assaulted them at his hotels.
Wynn, 77, denies all allegations against him and now lives in Florida.
“He’s gone,” Campbell told the five commissioners. “Mr. Wynn has no intention to re-enter gaming in Nevada or anywhere else in the world. None.”
“To be blunt, there is nothing for the commission to revoke,” the attorney said.
Campbell told reporters that Wynn wasn’t personally licensed when he resigned in 2018 as Wynn Resorts chairman and chief executive, divested himself of company shares and quit the corporate board.
Steve Shevorski, a deputy state attorney general, told the commission the jurisdiction question threatened to undercut regulation of Nevada’s most important industry.
“We are talking about power,” Shevorski said. “Mr. Wynn, like others before him and others that may come after him, come before this commission to be judged (for) suitability. You have full and absolute power and authority to revoke a finding of suitability.”
The state attorney insisted that Wynn’s legal position would set a dangerous precedent.
“It would be a bright line to say that the person once found suitable (has) the power (and) ... can cut it off whenever they choose to get around the power that justly belongs with this commission,” Shevorski said.
Commissioner Rosa Solis-Rainey noted that Wynn’s company, Wynn Resorts, was licensed during the time Wynn is accused of misconduct toward employees.
“For me, the timing of the conduct and the activity involved is important,” she said. “I believe the commission should retain the authority to address that conduct.”
“We have the power to look at acts and conduct that is alleged, no matter who leaves and at what point,” said John Moran, the commission’s senior member. “We’ve established a real clear public policy here that gives us huge powers by the Legislature to do those things that are right to protect the public and protect the industry.”
The commission last year fined Wynn Resorts a record $20 million for failing to investigate claims of sexual misconduct made against Wynn before he resigned.
Massachusetts gambling regulators fined Wynn Resorts another $35 million and new company chief executive Matthew Maddox $500,000 for failing to disclose while applying for a license for a Boston-area casino that there had been years of sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn.
Wynn Resorts agreed last month to accept $20 million in damages from Wynn and $21 million more from insurance carriers on behalf of current and former employees of Wynn Resorts to settle shareholder lawsuits accusing company directors of failing to disclose misconduct allegations.
The agreements made no admission of wrongdoing.