Massachusetts Regulator’s ‘Highly Unusual’ Wynn Resorts Casino Licensing Deal Faces Fresh Probe

  • The issue concerns the purchase of land for the Encore Boston Harbor from FBT Everett Realty
  • Justice Kafker on Monday deemed MGC’s regulatory action over the affair “highly unusual”
  • FBT alleges the MGC “improperly coerced” Wynn to reduce the Everett land’s purchase price
  • The MGC said Monday it would address the claim through “appropriate legal proceedings”
Encore Boston Harbor, Massachusetts
The Supreme Judicial Court will investigate a suspicious casino licensing deal between the Massachusetts gaming regulator and Wynn Resorts regarding its Encore Boston Harbor property. [Image:Shutterstock.com]

Regulator’s past bites back

A licensing deal made by the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) almost ten years ago is coming back to haunt it yet again.

a fresh probe into the awarding of a casino license to Wynn Resorts

On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Court ordered a fresh probe into the awarding of a casino license to Wynn Resorts for its Encore Boston Harbor casino, in addition to its purchase of land for the property. The state’s top court has revived an old dispute over the $40m discount Wynn Resorts received to buy the Encore land in 2013.

The fresh investigation will give the group that formerly owned the property, FBT Everett Realty, another shot at recovering the millions it lost having first priced the land at $75m in 2012, only for Wynn Resorts to buy it for $35m a year later.

The ruling deemed that a lower court judge made an error in dismissing FBT’s lawsuit last year. In an opinion published Monday, Justice Scott Kafker deemed the MGC’s regulatory action over the Wynn Resorts affair “highly unusual.”

Links to organized crime

FBT Everett Realty agreed to sell the land where Encore Boston Harbor now stands to Wynn for $75m, provided the latter received a Massachusetts casino license. Enter the MGC which, according to FBT Everett, “improperly coerced” Wynn to reduce the purchase price of the Encore land by threatening “to otherwise disadvantage” Wynn’s efforts for a casino license.

MGC could get sued for denying a “casino-use premium”

According to masslive.com, the MGC could get sued for denying a “casino-use premium” on the sale of land in Everett. Ultimately, attorneys for the MGC and FBT said, should the $40m judgment go against MGC, then Encore, MGM Springfield, and Plainridge Park Casino would likely have to pony up the penalty.

FBT alleges that the MGC had a reason to strong-arm it into selling the property at a lower price. The regulator supposedly had concerns over the possibility that Charles Lightbody — a convicted felon with links to organized crime — stood to benefit from FBT’s sale.

The debate continues

In Justice Kafker’s opinion, the MGC effectively compelled “the transfer of $40 million from one private party to another in order to secure a government license.”

MGC spokesman Tom Mills said Monday that the regulatory body will review the latest Supreme Judicial Court opinion. He said the MGC will address the findings through “appropriate legal proceedings.”

The MGC’s first chairman, Stephen Crosby, faced multiple accusations of bias for awarding Wynn Resorts a Boston-area casino license. He resigned in 2018, just before the MGC released its findings into Wynn Resorts’ handling of sexual misconduct allegations against Steve Wynn, its former CEO.