A No-Wynn Situation

The proposed action of the Nevada Gaming Control Board to ban Steve Wynn (l.) from the state’s gaming industry is misguided and foolish, according to author Richard Schuetz. It only serves to highlight the board’s incompetence in uncovering these alleged misdeeds over the 40 years they occurred.

A No-Wynn Situation

I believe that I am one of the few people alive today who has met every head of the Nevada Gaming Control Board since it was founded in 1955, with the note that I have not yet met the most recent occupant of that office.

I have also been regulated throughout my life, having started dealing blackjack at night in 1972 for Bill Harrah as a college student and basically hanging in and about the industry ever since. In my career, I have submitted over 120 applications for gaming licenses throughout the world, and I have never been found to be unsuitable or withdrawn a license application with prejudice.

I have also been a gaming commissioner in California, the largest gaming jurisdiction in the U.S. as measured by gross gaming revenues across all gaming verticals. In addition, I have been the executive director of a foreign gaming jurisdiction.

I was hired by the city of Detroit to assist that jurisdiction in the introduction of gaming, as well as being hired in a like capacity to assist the state of Kansas with the same goal. I have consulted with gaming clients around the world. I have been a CEO of a casino company in Las Vegas and have worked in key executive positions for Mr. Wynn, Mr. Adelson, Mr. Boyd, the Howard Hughes folks, and a number of others.

I have taught courses in casino management and gaming regulation in China, Switzerland, and across the United States. I have been closely aligned with Bill Eadington’s Executive Development Program for the majority of that program’s existence. I have given hundreds of guest lectures at colleges and universities around the world, spoken at numerous gaming conferences for five decades, and published well over 100 articles on gaming. I also spent over two years of my life studying and writing about the history of gaming regulation in Nevada from 1945 to 1966 as a dissertation in pursuit of a Ph.D, in economics, a project that allowed me to meet and visit with essentially all of the people who shaped the early direction of gaming regulation in Nevada.

The point I’m trying to make is that I’ve experienced a lot and seen a lot. I would suggest that this background entitles me to an opinion.

My opinion is that the current action against Mr. Wynn by the Nevada Gaming Control Board is wholly inappropriate. It serves no positive purpose whatsoever, and works to degrade the industry in Nevada and the people involved in it.

In short, I find it absurd.

Please do not mistake my comments as an endorsement of Mr. Wynn. I did work for him twice, once in his finance department and once as his personal consultant addressing his company’s big mistake in Mississippi. In the almost five decades I’ve been involved in the business, I can assure you that I know where a few of the bodies are buried, so to speak, and if I don’t know where they’re buried, I know a number of people who will take my call who do know.

I believe it’s accurate to conclude that Mr. Wynn was not an angel, but I can assure you that there are other non-angels that the NGCB has and continues to find suitable, and more importantly, are currently involved in the business.

The NGCB and the state of Nevada should thank the gods that Mr. Wynn opted to walk away from the Nevada gaming industry as the Wall Street Journal rolled his story out. Had he opted to stay in the industry and fight, it would have been an ugly, unpleasant, and expensive endeavor. It would have been to no one’s benefit, especially the state of Nevada and the industry of gaming.

The public embarrassment the man and his extended families has suffered is incalculable. If the NGCB thinks some monetary fine will be meaningful or decides to pile on more public shame, it’s on a fool’s errand. If there is a soul in Nevada who thinks this action enhances the image of the state and the industry, they are, in my opinion, fools.

I would hope that if the NGCB opts to do something now that it will mention that it took the board over 40 years to figure out there was a potential problem. It should also work to explain how a reporter for a New York newspaper was able to expose to the world what was going on in Nevada while the NGCB apparently did not have a hint. That will certainly burnish that gold-standard image of the state.

The NGCB needs to understand that there are essentially two conclusions that the public can reach, that that it apparently knew about the potential problem at Wynn and did nothing about it, or that it didn’t have the slightest clue. Neither interpretation is too favorable. The NGCB absolutely needs to accept that a reporter for a financial publication in New York turned up one of the biggest stories in a generation about Nevada’s largest industry that was happening right under the NGCB’s nose.

If the NGCB is compelled to pursue this, I would hope that it will line up that whole cast of characters who may have enabled the man by ignoring all of the many red flags. If Mr. Wynn did what has been claimed, I would argue he is a sick man and needs help. For the cast of characters the WSJ and the Massachusetts Gaming Commission identified who supported this potential illness, should they not also suffer? What they did was not the result of a sickness, but appears to be a complete selling-out of their souls for a few dollars more. If in fact Mr. Wynn was involved in one or more assaults or other totally inappropriate acts involving his employees, it should be noted that there appears there was a group of executives who were essentially holding the victim(s) down by their cowardice to act and do the right thing.

Mr. Wynn and his extended families will continue to suffer the embarrassment and shame of this situation as the civil suits weave through the courts. The NGCB also has a strong arsenal of tools should Mr. Wynn desire to reenter the gaming space in Nevada. Leave well enough alone and begin to look to the future.

The NGCB can try and prove whatever it wants to prove, including that it is inappropriate for Mr. Wynn to flip the board the middle finger when summoned to a hearing, but if it thinks this is the best use of its time, it is lost. The horse, one might suggest, is well outside of the barn. Be thankful that he is no longer in the ‘hood and really think twice before poking that bear.

Let me argue that a better use of the board’s time might be to look within to determine how to stop this type of thing in the future and develop meaningful regulations in conjunction with a viable whistleblower program. The board also needs more women field agents on these investigations.

Most importantly, it needs to ensure that every executive in the industry understands that if they are alive to something as sickening and depraved as what is alleged to have happened at the Wynn, they, too, will bear the consequences if they just sit back, count their money, and betray the trust and respect that their employees deserve. Do this, and both the state and the industry benefit.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.