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Encore Boston Harbor Next Up in Massachusetts


The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is near to reaching its findings on the “suitability” of Wynn Resorts to operate the $2.5 billion Encore Boston Harbor, which is less than a year from being completed along the banks of the Mystic River.

During its regular monthly meeting the commission’s Executive Director Ed Bedrosian reported that the Enforcement Bureau (IEB,) which is including information provided by an internal investigation, would be completed by the end of August.

The commission’s investigators interviewed 114 people and reviewed more than three million documents.

In December 2013 the commission found the company suitable for the license, but the scandal that arose in January from accusations of sexual misdeeds against the company’s founder and CEO Steve Wynn led to another investigation of the company after Wynn’s involuntary departure.

Wynn under its new CEO Matthew Maddox conducted an internal investigation, whose findings were presented to the company’s board of directors three weeks ago.

MGC did a similar investigation in 2013 into the CEO of Ourway Realty, the owner of Plainridge Racecourse, who had improperly skimmed money from the operation for many years. The CEO, Gary T. Piontkowski, was forced to resign from the company. The commission then forced Ourway to sell the racetrack to Penn National Gaming before the commission would grant a license to Plainridge to host the casino.

In that past investigation the commission was extremely interested in how the company itself reacted when it discovered what its CEO had done and how it rid itself of him. It was also very interested in how his successor worked to change the company’s underlying culture.

The commission at that time wrote: “Though he (Piontkowski) is no longer part of the organization, we must consider the systemic issues that allowed those practices to take place, what has been done to remedy those deficiencies, and what the outlook for the future is vis-à-vis the operation of a category 2 (slots) gaming establishment.”

After raking Ourway for allowing the abuses to take place and not detecting them, it forced the company to sell the racetrack to Penn.

The question is, will it reach a similar decision regarding the new Wynn management?

The new management is still involved in housecleaning. It recently forced the resignation of Kim Sinatra, general counsel, who Wynn’s ex-wife claimed to have given her information about other settlements Steve Wynn had made to accusers.

Wynn Resorts is also being investigated by gaming regulators in China and Nevada. One thing all the regulators seem to worry about how much of Wynn’s power and influence over every detail of the business he founded remains.

It did not go unnoticed that Wynn’s board of directors accepted his resignation with “a heavy heart,” instead of saying “good riddance” and the board’s “lack of diversity” was also heavily criticized.

In the case of Piontkowski’s departure, the MGC criticized the company for not punishing him more, for giving him severance pay: “Though the principals described the decision not to hold Piontkowski accountable as one that would essentially help them avoid the disruption of likely protracted litigation at a critical juncture, it sends the wrong message not only to the Commission, but to the other employees who see this wrongdoing being rewarded in this fashion. Indeed, this was seemingly the first big decision of the new administration.”

On the other hand, the commission is very aware that if it takes away the license this might have the effect of punishing the city of Everett—and catastrophic for the project itself.

The board could decide that the new management has taken appropriate actions since Steve Wynn’s departure, including implementing new procedures that demonstrate a new company culture.

At last week’s meeting Bedrosian told the panel, “We have repeatedly stated from the beginning that one of the four primary elements of the IEB’s review centers on an assessment of Wynn Resorts and the board’s response to the findings of its independent review. Investigators will now review and evaluate this additional information and expect to conclude their work by the end of this month.”

Although Wynn Resorts is in hot water because of its former leader’s anti-woman attitudes and sexual harassment, somewhat ironically the construction crew for the $2.5 billion project is exceeding the project’s goals for women in the workforce by 0.3 percent, with 328 women currently working at the site. The hiring goal was 6.9 percent.

The Northeast Center for Tradeswomen’s Equity has set a goal of 20 percent in the building trades by 2020.

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