Wynn Resorts CEO Maddox says sale of Boston casino a possibility

Friday , April 13, 2018 - 1:21 PM

Christopher Palmeri

(c) 2018, Bloomberg.

Wynn Resorts Chief Executive Officer Matt Maddox said he remains committed to finishing the $2.5 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 public 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 markets like 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, so MGM would have to divest its casino under construction in the western Massachusetts city of Springfield, which is scheduled to open later this year.

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

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’s thinking.

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.

Massachusetts regulators declined on Thursday to immediately drop Steve Wynn’s name from the company’s casino license in the state, 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.

Maddox said in the statement that his obligation to maximize value was “particularly relevant in light of recent commentary that was made despite our rapid and decisive efforts to sever all ties with our former chairman, actively searching for new diverse board members, and fully cooperating with the regulators in Massachusetts and elsewhere.”

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