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Wynn Resort Executives Face Questioning To Determine If Boston-Area Casino Can Open

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Gambling regulators in Massachusetts are reconsidering their decision to award a lucrative casino license to Wynn Resorts. The state gaming commission released a report today on their investigation into sexual assault allegations against the company's founder and former CEO, Steve Wynn. And they are questioning executives in hearings this week as they determine whether the company will be allowed to open its casino just outside of Boston this summer. Craig LeMoult of member station WGBH was at the hearing and joins us now. Hi, Craig.

CRAIG LEMOULT, BYLINE: Hi, Ari.

SHAPIRO: So Steve Wynn has a casino empire in Nevada. Remind us how Massachusetts became the center of this latest controversy.

LEMOULT: Right. After Massachusetts decided to legalize casino gaming, there was a competitive process for regional licenses, and Wynn Resorts won the license in 2014 for the Boston area. But then in 2018, The Wall Street Journal published an explosive report detailing several allegations from Wynn employees that they were sexually assaulted by the company's founder, Steve Wynn. Steve Wynn has denied those allegations, but he's acknowledged to having what he called consensual relationships with people at the company. But after it all came out, he resigned from the company, and he sold all his stock. But there was an internal investigation by the company into the allegations as well as investigations by gaming regulators in both Nevada and here in Massachusetts.

SHAPIRO: And as we mentioned, the Massachusetts investigation was released just today. What is in it?

LEMOULT: Yeah. It details a number of deeply troubling allegations against Steve Wynn - seven different complaints from Wynn employees ranging from multiple allegations of rape to several sexual assault - sexual harassment complaints as well. There were also several settlements, including one for $7 1/2 million from a woman who said Wynn raped her and that she got pregnant.

SHAPIRO: Wow. Did executives at Wynn Resorts know about these allegations and these multimillion-dollar settlements?

LEMOULT: Yes, several of them did, but the incidents were not investigated by the company, and the report says executives actually took measures to conceal the allegations. And key to the hearings here in Massachusetts this week is those allegations and the settlements were not disclosed to the gaming commission when it made its decision to award a license to Wynn Resorts. And the commission has to determine if the company is suitable to hold that state license. And, really, that's what this week's hearings are all about.

SHAPIRO: What's the company saying about all of this as it comes to light today?

LEMOULT: They did not dispute the findings. They said it's pretty much the same thing they found in their internal report. Wynn Resorts President and CEO Matthew Maddox thanked the company's internal investigators and the commission's investigation team for getting to the truth.

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MATTHEW MADDOX: As those investigations began, the denial changed, and I began to realize that there were many victims and those victims felt powerless. And for that, I am deeply remorseful.

LEMOULT: He apologized to those victims, and he said the company is taking steps to make sure it doesn't happen again. Those include an internal review in the company and new policies to prevent harassment, as well as new leadership. Anyone who knew about the allegations, he said, is no longer with the company.

SHAPIRO: Does that seem to have satisfied state regulators? I mean, Wynn has a resort that is about to open in Massachusetts.

LEMOULT: Right. No. The head of the commission's investigations and enforcement bureau acknowledged the steps that they've taken, but it said - but she said that does not erase the past. And she said this is a serious issue. The - in Nevada, gambling regulators there fined the company $20 million. So that kind of thing could happen, or they could potentially lose their license. And as you said, right now, it's scheduled to open in June.

SHAPIRO: That is Craig LeMoult in Boston where the state gaming commission is holding hearings this week on the future of Wynn's planned casino outside Boston. Craig, thanks a lot.

LEMOULT: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.