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Hotel And Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Denies Sexual Misconduct Allegations


There are few people in Las Vegas more powerful than the billionaire casino mogul and Republican donor Steve Wynn. His power diminished over the weekend as the Republican National Committee announced that he's no longer the finance chair. This was after The Wall Street Journal revealed what it called a pattern of sexual misconduct dating back decades. Wynn has denied that he ever forced employees to perform sexual acts.

Rick Velotta is covering this for the Las Vegas Review-Journal and joins us now. Welcome to the program.

RICK VELOTTA: Thanks for having me on.

SHAPIRO: How much has this shaken the Wynn business empire?

VELOTTA: As far as the Wynn business empire, I think that the biggest thing that we've seen that - it's pretty empirical is that the fact that the stocks just take a big dive on Friday. That's like a $2 billion market cap hit that they took. As far as operations are concerned, though, I think there's more people who are just a little bit worried about what's going to happen next. And certainly there is a pathway toward that because there are numerous investigations that are in the works.

SHAPIRO: And then there are also the political implications. Let's start with the national level. He's no longer finance chair of the RNC, and many Republicans are under pressure to return his campaign donations.

VELOTTA: That's true. And that even goes to one of our local election campaigns here involving Senator Dean Heller. So it's one of those things that not only is it going to impact our own political landscape and - but that one's a pretty high-profile race. And certainly the candidate on the Democratic side, Jacky Rosen, is putting the pressure on him to turn back that money.

SHAPIRO: We should note that your newspaper is owned by a different casino magnate, Sheldon Adelson. How important is Steve Wynn in the world that you report on? Is this the equivalent of Harvey Weinstein in Hollywood?

VELOTTA: By all means it is because Steve Wynn kind of personifies the new Las Vegas. Our history has been one of transformation over the years. And the first transformation that - of any major significance was the opening of The Mirage back in 1989. That's a casino property that has a volcano on site that erupts every 15 minutes. It's a big attraction on the Strip. It was when it opened. It still is. And then, of course, he built Wynn Las Vegas and Encore. These are properties that bears his name. And that empire goes - it extends into Massachusetts, where he's building at Boston Harbor, and in Macau, the largest gaming market in the world.

SHAPIRO: Sounds like we are at the beginning, not the end of this story, and there's likely going to be more to come.

VELOTTA: I think you're right on that because the fact that there are some investigations that have been promised. The board of directors for Wynn Resorts Limited has put together a three-member committee. They'll have independent counsel that will be guiding them. And then there are the regulatory side. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission has indicated they're going to be doing an investigation. And while the Nevada Gaming Control Board has not said that they're going to be doing an investigation, it's my guess that that could turn into some kind of investigation down the road. But it hasn't been affirmed yet.

SHAPIRO: Wynn Resorts put out a statement saying that it offers an anonymous hotline and, quote, "not one complaint was made to that hotline regarding Mr. Wynn." Sounds like they're standing by their corporate leader.

VELOTTA: Yes, that's true. There was a statement also made by the president of Wynn Las Vegas over the weekend as well that indicated that they are standing by him. They view this as a part of a nasty divorce settlement situation between him and his ex-wife, Elaine Wynn. Of course, Mrs. Wynn has said that she's had nothing to do with any of this. So they're all standing by their stories right now. And I think once some of these investigations happen then we'll maybe know a little bit more about who's right on this.

SHAPIRO: That's Rick Velotta of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Thank you for joining us.

VELOTTA: Thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOT BEATS' "LET ME RIDE (MADE FAMOUS BY DR. DRE)") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.