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MGC Disputes Boston Magazine's Claim It Was Biased Toward Steve Wynn

Boston Hotel
Former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn

Massachusetts’ casino regulator has lashed out at a magazine article that claimed it was easily wooed in its bidding process for the right to build a casino in Greater Boston. 

Boston Magazine published a story Oct. 17 reporting that the Massachusetts Gaming Commission strayed from an initial pledge to run a “squeaky clean casino-biz.” The profile says former MGC Chairman Steve Crosby, who resigned in late September, initially removed gaming companies like Caesars Entertainment Corp. from consideration for a Greater Boston casino license at the earliest signs of ties to organized crime. Crosby allegedly had a different set of rules when it came to former Wynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn. 

“Boston Magazine recently published an article about the Massachusetts Gaming Commission that blatantly omits essential facts and relevant context resulting in a flawed and misleading narrative of the Region A casino licensing process,” Massachusetts Gaming Commission Director of Communications Elaine Driscoll said in a prepared statement. “The story is remarkable for its exclusions, misrepresentations and innuendo.”

The article focuses on critics who say Wynn’s plan to bring an extravagant casino to Everett swayed Crosby and the MGC from awarding the state’s only Greater Boston casino license to a Mohegan Sun-backed proposal at Suffolk Downs, which many believed was the front-runner for the Boston casino bid.

There were indications that Wynn had ties to organized crime, in Macau and to one of the former landowners of the Everett property where the $2.5B Encore Boston Harbor is now under construction. 

Encore Boston Harbor rendering

The MGC response to the article includes seven claims of false reporting in the Boston Magazine story, including a claim the MGC changed consulting firms to perform a background check on Wynn Resorts before awarding the company a casino license. The magazine claimed the regulatory body dropped Spectrum Gaming from conducting the review after Wynn complained there was a conflict of interest.

The magazine claims the state went with a New Jersey-based law firm with limited experience with investigations in Macau, where Wynn Resorts has a casino and the Boston Magazine article claims Steve Wynn had business connections to a criminal. 

The MGC also raised issue with the magazine for saying it had eliminated Caesars Entertainment from consideration after finding one instance of ties to organized crime. The regulator claims there were four areas of concern, including ties to Russian organized crime and questions about the company’s financial stability. 

Following Steve Wynn’s departure from his namesake company after a wave of sexual misconduct allegations, Wynn Resorts has tried to change its image in order to keep its license to operate the Everett casino, including changing the name from Wynn Boston Harbor to Encore Boston Harbor. Several board members with loyalty to Steve Wynn have also left the company. 

The MGC is winding down an investigation into how much the company knew about its former leader’s behavior, and it could still strip Wynn Resorts of its casino license. Mohegan Sun has lobbied for Wynn to lose the license. Sterling Suffolk Racecourse, Mohegan’s partner on the Suffolk Downs casino proposal, filed a $1B lawsuit against Wynn Resorts and Steve Wynn in September, claiming Wynn had rigged the bidding process for the license. 

Calls of bias from both sides ultimately led to Crosby stepping down from his position last month, but the MGC maintains it is running a fair investigation despite the magazine's reporting.

“While we will continue to defend against those baseless claims, they will not distract us from the important work ahead, including the determination via appropriate due process of Wynn’s suitability to maintain its license, and our unfailing commitment to conduct our work in a manner that is fair, thoughtful, and transparent,” Driscoll said in her statement.

Boston Magazine responded Monday night and said the MGC incorrectly and unfairly criticized its reporting. The magazine also took issue with the MGC citing page numbers that didn't correlate with the print or online version of the story. The MGC's rebuttal also references a quote in the story by former Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, but Coakley was not quoted in the story.

"After carefully reviewing the Commission’s curiously defensive rebuttal, Boston stands by the accuracy of its story, which was carefully reported and fact-checked," Boston Magazine Editor-in-Chief Chris Vogel said in a statement.