In a Nutshell
- There is more to the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s recent decision to appeal the District Court ruling against Steve Wynn than holding the accused accountable.
- Former Control Board chairs feel allowing the court ruling to stand could damage the ability of regulators to oversee and discipline licensees.
- Regulators have claimed Wynn didn’t properly surrender his gaming license.
- They are pursuing to prevent others from doing what Wynn did.
Last week, the Nevada Gaming Control Board only needed a minute to unanimously vote to continue pursuing the authority to discipline former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn.
Regulators no longer have powers over Wynn
Recently, District Court Judge Adriana Escobar ruled that regulators no longer have powers over Wynn. The board has moved to appeal the decision.
While Control Board members avoided discussing their reasoning to keep the legal strategies they intend to use a secret, it’s clear there’s more to their decision to appeal than holding Steve Wynn accountable.
Former Control Board chairs believe allowing the precedence of the ruling to stand could erode the ability of regulators to oversee and properly discipline licensees.
“The message that’s being sent to gaming licensees is if you run into disciplinary challenges and the (Gaming) Commission may want to take away your license or pursue criminal violations, all you have to do is divest yourself and they have no jurisdiction,” said former Gaming Control Board Chairwoman Becky Harris, now a distinguished fellow at UNLV’s International Gaming Institute. “That’s a problem for a privileged license. The supposition has always been that the board has continuing jurisdiction.”
The Control Board filed a five-count complaint against Wynn for workplace sexual misconduct and sexual harassment of female workers in October last year. The accused has denied the claims.
Two months later, the Nevada Gaming Commission reviewed the complaint and concurred with the Control Board.
Escobar’s ruling came as a result of Wynn petitioning in January that Nevada regulators didn’t have jurisdiction over him because he no longer has links with Wynn Resorts. Escobar said the petitioner “has no material involvement, directly or indirectly, with a licensed gaming operation or registered holding company.”
Wynn failed to surrender his license properly
However, regulators disagree with the ruling, claiming Wynn failed to surrender his license properly, and some regulations and statutes address how a licensee exits the industry.
Before Wynn moved to detach himself from the company after the allegations of harassment, regulators began an investigation and ordered an administrative hold on his license.
“The voluntary surrender of a license by a licensee does not become effective until accepted in the manner provided in the regulations of the (Nevada Gaming) Commission. The surrender of a license does not relieve the former licensee of any penalties, fines, fees, taxes or interest due,” reads a Nevada Revised Statute that addresses the surrender of gaming licenses.
Wynn was required to communicate with the Control Board about his planned exit, according to another statute on the general powers and duties of the board and the Commission.
Now, regulators are doing everything possible to prevent other licensees from trying to do the same thing.