Gaming | Wynn Resorts CEO says Boston casino sale possible

Matt Maddox

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Matt Maddox said he remains committed to finishing the USD2.5 billion casino the company is building in the Boston area but also wants to “maximize the value of our assets and mitigate risk.”

The company’s comments, from an emailed statement, are the most direct yet since Bloomberg News reported last week that Wynn Resorts has discussed selling the Massachusetts project with other casino operators. MGM Resorts International is among those that have talked with the company, a person with knowledge of the matter said Thursday.

A sale could get Wynn Resorts out of a tricky spot. The company faces claims that it overlooked years of sexual misconduct by 76-year-old Steve Wynn. Massachusetts regulators are investigating the allegations, and a report is expected to be released in early summer. The state could find Wynn Resorts unsuitable to hold a gaming license, leading to possible repercussions in Nevada and Macau where it operates casinos, and in Japan where it’s seeking one.

A deal with MGM would complicate what’s already been one of the most tumultuous gambling rollouts in U.S. history. Massachusetts approved casinos in 2011 and since then bidders and cities have been disqualified for various reasons. State law limits operators to one casino each, meaning MGM would have to divest its casino under construction in the western Massachusetts city of Springfield, scheduled to open later this year.

“We remain fully committed to the opening and success of MGM Springfield,” Debra DeShong, a spokeswoman for MGM, said in a statement. “We do not comment on rumors or speculation around transactions.”

Caesars Entertainment Corp. was considered a favorite to win the Boston-area license until it was disqualified by regulators due in part to its heavy debt load. Las Vegas Sands Corp. didn’t pursue a Massachusetts license earlier in the process and isn’t interested now, according to a person familiar with the company.

One possibility is that MGM would sell its Springfield project to either of the two Indian tribes that operate casinos in Connecticut. Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods are planning a casino north of Hartford, Connecticut, that could intercept potential customers bound for Springfield. A source close to MGM said there haven’t been any discussions with the tribes.

Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno issued a statement Friday saying that he’d spoken with MGM executives who assured him of their “continued commitment to a first-class resort in Springfield.”

Massachusetts regulators declined on Thursday to immediately drop Steve Wynn’s name from the company’s casino license, despite requests from Wynn and the company. The state gaming commission plans a hearing next month to consider the request, with chair Stephen Crosby saying he wants to ensure the company’s former CEO isn’t continuing to influence the company. Christopher Palmeri, Bloomberg

Categories Business Headlines