Nevada Supreme Court Rules Against ‘Free Pass’ for Casino Mogul Steve Wynn

  • Nevada gaming regulators want to hold Wynn accountable for sexual misconduct allegations
  • The lower court lacked jurisdiction to rule regulators could no longer hold Wynn accountable
  • The next step will see a Nevada Gaming Commission complaint hearing take place
  • Steve Wynn resigned as Wynn Resorts CEO in 2018 and sold his shares in the company
Steve Wynn
The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision that regulators have argued effectively gave casino mogul Steve Wynn a ‘free pass.’ [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Siding with the regulators

The Nevada Supreme Court has overturned a lower court decision that gaming regulators argued effectively gave former casino mogul Steve Wynn a ‘free pass.’ State gaming regulators have tried to hold the 80 year old accountable for sexual harassment and misconduct allegations.

Clark County District Court Judge Adriana Escobar sided with Wynn in November 2020. She ruled that the sale of Wynn’s holdings in Wynn Resorts and his resignation meant he was no longer subject to regulatory oversight. Regulators had concerns that the ruling would impact their ability to discipline people who had committed wrongdoings but had since left the gaming industry.

Judge Escobar did not have the jurisdiction to make a decision

On Thursday, seven Supreme Court judges unanimously concluded that Judge Escobar did not have the jurisdiction to make a decision on the matter. The court based its decision on the fact that the Nevada Gaming Commission had not responded to a 2019 Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) request. It sought to declare Wynn unsuitable to ever receive a gaming license in the future.

The reaction to the ruling

Gaming regulators appealed the lower court decision to the Supreme Court with the aim of holding Steve Wynn accountable for his alleged actions. Following the decision by the Supreme Court, NGCB chairman Brin Gibson said that the regulator is “reviewing the decision with legal counsel to determine next steps.”

Major executives and shareholders need to acquire a gaming license from regulators in order to enter Nevada’s gambling industry.

Steve Wynn’s attorney Colby Williams said that the next step will see a complaint hearing take place with the Nevada Gaming Commission. Williams said that while they were disappointed to not put the issue to bed, they are still happy that “all of our arguments can still be presented when we go back to the commission, and then if necessary, back to the court.”

A long-running issue

Steve Wynn was a key driver of the development of the Las Vegas Strip. He was the founder and long-time CEO of Wynn Resorts until he stepped down in 2018 following the publication of allegations of wrongdoing against him. Wynn allegedly engaged in inappropriate relations with his subordinates and made unwanted sexual advances. He has denied all of these allegations.

Wynn Resorts received a state-record $20m NGC fine in February 2019 due to its failures in reporting and/or investigating allegations against Steve Wynn.

Nevada regulators filed a complaint against Wynn to declare him unsuitable to associate in any way with a gaming company or the wider industry. The business mogul’s legal team filed a petition for a judicial review after a motion to dismiss the complaint was unsuccessful.

In a January hearing, Wynn’s attorney argued that the regulators no longer had any authority over his client and that he couldn’t be held responsible if he did not show up in person at an NGCB hearing. He referenced how the former casino mogul had given up his gaming license 20 months before the NGCB had filed its complaint.