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Elaine Wynn tells panel she warned casino firm in 2009 of abuse claim

Elaine Wynn, the largest single shareholder of Wynn Resorts, and ex-wife of Steve Wynn testified before the Gaming Commission.
Elaine Wynn, the largest single shareholder of Wynn Resorts, and ex-wife of Steve Wynn testified before the Gaming Commission. (John Tlumacki/Globe Staff)

Elaine Wynn, the former spouse of Steve Wynn and the largest shareholder in Wynn Resorts, testified Thursday that she learned in 2009 that the casino mogul had been accused of raping and impregnating a Wynn Las Vegas employee four years earlier, an allegation that was settled for $7.5 million.

When she confronted Steve Wynn, then the company’s CEO, he denied the accusation, saying the woman was extorting him and that nothing sexual had taken place, Elaine Wynn told the Gaming Commission. But she reported the claim to the company’s then-general counsel, Kim Sinatra, which she said satisfied her obligation as a board member.

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Sinatra, who left the company last summer, has disputed the timing and nature of the conversation. But when questioned Thursday, Elaine Wynn was definitive.

“I strongly maintain that I spoke to her in 2009,” Elaine Wynn said.

Elaine Wynn’s testimony came on the third and final day of hearings to determine whether Wynn Resorts should retain its casino license, which it needs to open its $2.6 billion Everett resort in June as planned. A commission report found that former Wynn Resorts officials had covered up the allegations against Steve Wynn for years, findings the company did not dispute.

Elaine Wynn, who as the company’s leading shareholder must be found suitable to be part of a licensed casino, said she could have cashed out her shares and walked away but has decided to remain involved.

“I’m here because I am team Wynn,” she said.

The 2005 settlement was first revealed in 2016 as part of protracted litigation involving Steve and Elaine Wynn. Two years later, when The Wall Street Journal published a story detailing the allegations against Steve Wynn, the casino mogul issued a statement blaming his former wife for concocting the accusations as a litigation strategy.

Steve Wynn, 77, has denied “allegations of nonconsensual sex.”

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For the second consecutive day, chief executive Matt Maddox came under sharp questioning, particularly from gaming commissioner Gayle Cameron. Maddox has said he was unaware of the complaints against Steve Wynn at the time, and of the settlements Wynn paid to his accusers. A number of former executives were implicated in covering up the complaints, but state investigators did not establish that Maddox was among them.

Cameron’s questions were blunt: If he didn’t know about the accusations, why not? And why did he later appear to tolerate subordinates who had kept such critical information from him?

“I’m trying to learn what you did as a leader,” Cameron said.

Maddox replied: “I tend to not focus on the past but try to fix the future.”

Cameron was not satisfied, saying Maddox couldn’t even say he “had a conversation” with executives who had failed to brief him on the misconduct complaints.

“When there is time to make a change, I make it,” Maddox said, referring to the company’s ouster of executives who concealed and failed to investigate the accusations. “I wasn’t perfect in this.”

Cameron asked Maddox if he understood the phrase “Known or should have known.”

“It means there was willful neglect around something you should have known,” Maddox replied.

In his final remarks, Maddox reminded the commission of the sweeping changes he has undertaken since he became CEO in February 2018.

“The company transformed in a very rapid way, and that didn’t happen by accident,” he said.

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Jed Nosal, a lawyer for Wynn Resorts, said the company has tried to make amends for past mistakes and cut ties with those responsible for concealing the complaints.

“The company can’t change the past, but has done a great deal to change its future,” he said.

Philip Satre, the chairman of Wynn’s board of directors, said after the hearing that “the entire board and management are full partners in the ongoing effort to foster a safe workplace environment where all are encouraged to voice concerns and employees at every level of the organization are held accountable.”

Robert DeSalvio, president of the Everett casino, called Encore Boston Harbor, helped conclude the company’s presentation. He provided an update on the status of the project and focused on the economic benefits the casino will bring — $575 million to Everett and its neighbors over the next 15 years and a workforce of 5,000, with a hiring preference for local residents.

“At the end of the day, it’s a lot more than money,” DeSalvio said. “That’s no small job opportunity. We are talking about over 5,000 careers that will be available.”

The commission will now deliberate in private and issue a written decision, probably later this month, on whether the company can retain its license.


Mark Arsenault can be reached at mark.arsenault@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.