Steve Wynn Saga: Nevada Regulators Still Want to Punish Ex-Casino Tycoon
Steve Wynn departed the gaming industry nearly four years ago. But officials in Nevada continue to seek legal authority to punish the now 79-year-old for his alleged conduct while he headed one of the world’s largest casino empires.
Wynn resigned from Wynn Resorts in January of 2018 and sold off his entire ownership in his namesake company the following month. The billionaire’s departure came after a career-ending expose was published in The Wall Street Journal that detailed years of sexual misconduct and harassment allegedly committed by the Las Vegas visionary.
The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) in 2019 instructed its Investigations Division to conduct a probe into the reported allegations that Steve Wynn had a long story of acting inappropriately with female Wynn Resorts employees. The investigation concluded that Steve Wynn was not suitable to work in Nevada’s casino industry.
The NGCB subsequently issued a five-count complaint against Steve Wynn in 2020. Gaming regulators sought to render Steve Wynn “unsuitable to be associated with a gaming enterprise or the gaming industry as a whole.” The complaint additionally sought to impose financial penalties against Steve Wynn and/or Wynn Resorts.
Attorneys representing the man who played a vital role in transforming Las Vegas from a seedy gambling town to a five-star luxury destination fired back against the NGCB. Clark County District Court Judge Adriana Escobar in November of 2020 agreed with Steve Wynn’s defense team. He ruled that the Nevada Gaming Commission (NGC) and NGCB no longer have any regulatory jurisdiction over the billionaire because he no longer had any control or interest in the state’s gaming industry.
The NGCB, less than a month after Escobar’s ruling, appealed the matter to the Nevada Supreme Court. Oral arguments finally began this week before the state’s highest court.
Attorneys representing the state argued yesterday that Steve Wynn leaving the gaming industry shouldn’t mean that his actions during his Wynn Resorts tenure should be immune from regulatory action. Justice Lidia Stiglich seemingly agreed.
“Is Mr. Wynn going to be held accountable for acts that occurred while he was under a suitability finding?” Stiglich asked Wynn’s team. “Are you telling us that when he leaves the company, he will no longer … be held accountable?”
Wynn attorney Colby Williams said that isn’t necessarily accurate. Williams opined that the NGCB is seeking to impose regulatory penalties against someone who isn’t involved, or seeking to become involved, in its industry.
Williams countered that his client surrendered his gaming license and personal suitability finding when he resigned from Wynn Resorts some 20 months before the NGCB brought the complaint against him.
“It’s our position that Mr. Wynn’s findings of suitability ended when he resigned his positions as CEO and director of Wynn Resorts,” Williams declared. “Our argument is, and what I believe the district court agreed with us on, is that when dealing with fines, and the board’s ability to recommend fines, and the commission’s ability to impose fines, the regulatory language used is in the present tense.
They [NGC/NGCB] can only impose fines against someone who ‘is’ found suitable. By the time this action was instituted, Mr. Wynn’s findings of suitability no longer existed.”
Williams concluded that the Nevada Supreme Court has a well-documented history of determining that the present tense in a statute carries weight.
“If Mr. Wynn’s findings of suitability have ended before this disciplinary matter was pursued, then no, he cannot be fined,” Williams concluded.
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