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Chris Sieroty

Wynn's casino deal in Massachusetts under investigation

22 November 2013

LAS VEGAS -- While the Massachusetts Gaming Commission has tentatively scheduled a Dec. 16 suitability hearing for Wynn Resorts, Limited, the company is being investigated by a federal grand jury and two state agencies over whether a felon has hidden ownership in the proposed casino site.

The Boston Globe reported the felon, Charles Lightbody, who served jail time for assault with a dangerous weapon and pleaded guilty for his role in an identity theft ring in New York, is a secret investor in the Everett, Mass., property and would profit if the casino project is approved.

In response, Wynn Resorts is rewriting the sales agreement for the site, a former Monsanto Chemical Co. plant, reducing the price the company will pay if the $1.5 billion casino is built.

“We have agreed with the sellers to amend our option agreement to clearly confirm ownership and to reduce the option price to reflect fair market value without casino use,” Wynn Resorts said Thursday in a statement. “We intend to petition the (gaming commission) for approval of our action.”

The company said while it was aware of the Gaming Commission’s general investigation, it was “unaware of any other investigation related to the property. Wynn Resorts reportedly offered to pay $70 million for the 30-acre site from a company called FBT Everett Realty LLC.

Wynn officials said they never dealt with Lightbody and completed background investigations on the property’s owners.

But investigators with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission, who reviewed the deal, “raised concerns about potential participants who had not been disclosed to us,” the company said.

Brad Putter, a spokesman with Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakly’s office, declined comment, and federal law enforcement officials were unavailable for comment.

The scope of the grand jury investigation remains unclear.

“We are unable to comment on the background investigation while it is still active and respectfully decline to comment on investigatory details at this time,” MGC spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said in an email.

Wynn’s Everett proposal is the only project in the eastern part of the state to be approved by voters. Voters in Milford and East Boston recently rejected rival proposals. MGM Resorts International’s Springfield, Mass., plan is all alone in the western part of the state.

But Wynn has a couple of weeks to find out if it has passed a state background check. It’s an extensive process that derailed Caesars Entertainment Corp.’s deal with Suffolk Downs in East Boston over concerns on a licensing deal with a separate firm that was partly owned by a businessman with Russian mob ties.

The commission’s finding, released last month, caused Wynn Resorts Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Wynn to criticize Massachusetts regulators. Wynn expressed fears that after investing more than a billion dollars in Everett, regulators would find a reason to take away his license.
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