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With Massachusetts commission’s Wynn probe awaited, chairman resigns

September 27, 2018

Mohegan Sun’s never-say-die pursuit of a Boston casino played a part in the resignation this week of the chairman of the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, the panel that chose Wynn Resorts over Mohegan Sun four years ago.

Stephen Crosby, who had led the commission since its 2011 inception, stepped down Wednesday — a day after an attorney for Mohegan Sun called for him to be barred from the commission’s reconsideration of Wynn Resorts’ “suitability.”

In a letter to the commission’s counsel, the attorney for Mohegan Sun said his client had raised “credible allegations” about the fairness of the commission’s licensing process, including its “failure to investigate sexual predation by Stephen (Steve) Wynn at Wynn properties and Wynn’s institutional complicity in those acts ...”

″... I write now to request Chairman Stephen Crosby’s immediate disqualification from any participation in the current determination of Wynn’s suitability, in light of recent comments that evidence his irremediable bias,” attorney Kenneth Leonetti wrote.

The same comments, contained in an article posted Sept. 13 on MassLive, an online news site, were cited by an attorney for Steve Wynn who demanded in a letter to Crosby last week that the commission stop investigating Wynn’s personal life and that Crosby and the commission “publish a full and fair retraction” of Crosby’s comments.

Steve Wynn’s attorney, L. Lin Wood, wrote that Crosby’s statements “clearly convey that Mr. Wynn is a sexual predator and that the MGC has made that finding in its investigation.” The statements, Wood wrote, “are false and defamatory.”

Crosby, faced with the questions about his impartiality, resigned from the five-member commission.

“Based on our experience, I have reason to expect that the Commission’s objectivity — even if I recuse myself from the current proceedings — will be challenged,” he wrote in a message to commissioners and staff posted on the commission’s website.

Crosby denied the charges of bias.

During a commission meeting Thursday in Boston, commission staff indicated an internal investigation into Steve Wynn’s sexual conduct and whether Wynn Resorts was aware of it at the time it vied for the Greater Boston casino license likely will be completed next month.

The report of the investigation will be submitted to the commission, which will take public testimony before deliberating privately.

The remaining commissioners chose Gayle Cameron to serve as interim chairman.

Allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn surfaced in January in a Wall Street Journal report. Soon thereafter, the commission began reviewing its 2014 awarding of the Greater Boston casino license to Wynn Resorts. Commission staff indicated Steve Wynn’s failure to disclose an alleged $7.5 million out-of-court settlement with one of his accusers was of particular interest.

Wynn resigned in February as chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts. By the end of March, he had sold all his stock in the Las Vegas-based company.

In a lawsuit filed in Superior Court in Massachusetts, Mohegan claims the commission acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in awarding Wynn Resorts the Greater Boston casino license. Mohegan Sun also claims the commission repeatedly violated an open-meetings law during the licensing process.

Crosby recused himself from the process due to questions about his relationship with the co-owner of the Everett casino site, and did not take part in the commission’s 3-1 vote to award the license to Wynn Resorts.

Amid controversy over the sexual misconduct allegations, Wynn Resorts dropped “Wynn” from the name of the Everett project, changing it to Encore Boston Harbor. Well under construction, it is scheduled to open in June. Gaming-industry analysts have predicted that it will have a significant impact on business at Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods Resort Casino.

Massachusetts’ first full-blown casino, MGM Springfield, opened last month just north of the Connecticut border.

b.hallenbeck@theday.com

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