Friday, May 27, 2011
Steve Wynn Shares Casino Owner's Handbook on Organized Crime
Gambling mogul Steve Wynn had fun with a question at a press conference Tuesday about allegations of organized crime in Macau, the world’s largest casino market.
“I know one thing–organized crime is illegal…And one should avoid participating in organized crime,” he said. “That’s the first page of the casino owner’s handbook…actually I didn’t go any further in the book. That’s where I left it right there,” he joked.
Turning more serious, he said Wynn Resorts Ltd. has an “extensive internal investigation process” to ensure it remains compliant with regulations in the U.S. and China. “We have former FBI agents and policemen from Hong Kong and China–a whole staff of people to check things up and have access to intelligence and things that us normal people wouldn’t necessarily know about.”
Mr. Wynn, Wynn Resorts’ chief executive, said the company and its Hong Kong-listed Wynn Macau Ltd. unit vet business partners including junket operators, the middlemen who recruit mostly mainland Chinese gamblers, lend them money and collect debts.
“All of this we did out of sheer common sense and understanding the business we’re in,” said Mr. Wynn following the annual general meeting for Wynn Macau. Mr. Wynn said that his compliance committee doesn’t report to him, but to Wynn Resorts board member and former Nevada Gov. Bob Miller.
Investigations into the casino industry have been on investors’ minds recently. A U.S. government probe of rival casino operator Las Vegas Sands for possible lack of compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has some investors and industry watchers concerned there could be a sector-wide probe on the way. (Las Vegas Sands has said it is cooperating with investigators and has denied allegations in a separate lawsuit the company believes sparked the investigation.) Last year, another Macau casino player, MGM Resorts International, sold its stake in a New Jersey casino after regulators there found the operator’s Macau partnership with a daughter of tycoon Stanley Ho troubling because of his alleged ties to organized crime. Mr. Ho and his family denied any such ties.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal Saturday, Mr. Wynn said his company didn’t face any regulatory risk despite the increased scrutiny of some in the industry.
“We’ve never been investigated by anyone and have no risk of any kind whatsoever,” he said.
Thanks to Kate O'Keefe
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