A US attorney for former gaming mogul Steve Wynn told the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday that the founder and former CEO of Wynn Resorts can’t be held accountable by gaming regulators, who are asking to restore authority over him regarding any alleged sexual misconduct and harassment allegations that led to his departure from the casino company in 2018.
While Attorney Colby Williams noted that Wynn wasn’t getting “a free pass” for any of the alleged misconduct, he explained that regulators have no authority over Wynn now, including that they cannot hold him responsible for failing to appear at a Gaming Control Board hearing. Williams argued that Wynn gave up his gaming license about 20 months before the regulator on Oct. 14, 2019, filed the five-count complaint that sought to label the former CEO as “unsuitable to be associated with a gaming enterprise or the gaming industry as a whole,”
Wynn stepped down from his positions with Wynn Resorts on Feb. 6, 2018, and divested himself of all company shares he owned by March 22, 2018. He left the company after media reports accused him of making unwanted sexual advances to female Wynn Resorts employees and sexually assaulted several women.
The NGCB and Nevada Gaming Commission are appealing a District Court ruling from November 2020 that said Wynn’s resignation and sale of his holdings in the company removed him from their oversight. In that decision, Clark County District Judge Adriana Escobar said regulators overstepped their authority because Wynn no longer has any involvement with the industry.
On Monday, the regulators, represented in the hearing by Deputy Attorney General Kiel Ireland, argued that unless they are allowed to maintain jurisdiction over gaming executives, alleged wrongdoers could quit their positions and then later return to the industry. Ireland said suitability doesn’t go away even if a gaming operator surrenders its license.
“A finding of suitability under our Gaming Control Act does not have any kind of automatic expiration,” Ireland said, as reported by The Nevada Independent. “The commission had the authority to consider discipline against Mr. Wynn for acts that he allegedly committed while he clearly was materially involved with a licensee.” There was no indication when the court would issue a ruling on the case.
The NGCB brought the complaint amid well-documented media reports and investigations that concluded Wynn made unwanted sexual advances and engaged in inappropriate relationships with subordinates. Wynn has long denied the allegations but still departed the company two weeks after they were unveiled. He now resides in Florida.
In November last year, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit revived a dismissed sexual harassment lawsuit brought by nine women against Wynn Resorts and Steve Wynn, as the appellate court reversed a portion of a ruling by U.S. District Judge James Mahan who said the women’s pleadings were “too vague” in July 2020.
Wynn Resorts underwent a makeover following Steve Wynn’s departure, with a remake of the company’s board, new leadership in the executive suite, and new policies directed toward sexual harassment prevention. A compliance committee was created with numerous procedures to prevent any harassment allegation from going unchecked.
In February 2019, the company paid a $20 million fine, the largest in Nevada history, to the Nevada Gaming Commission to settle a 10-count complaint that detailed years of failure by former company executives to “report and/or investigate” numerous allegations of sexual assault, sexual harassment and sexual misconduct by Steve Wynn. Massachusetts gaming regulators slapped a $35 million fine on Wynn Resorts three months later.