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Wynn Resorts shaken by misconduct claims against founder

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© (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File) © (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)
NEW YORK (AP) -

Wynn Resorts is denying multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault by founder Steve Wynn detailed in a Wall Street Journal report that sent shares of the casino company tumbling more than 10 percent Friday.

The paper reported that a number of women say they were harassed or assaulted by the casino mogul and finance chair of the Republican National Committee.

One case led to a $7.5 million settlement with a manicurist, the paper reported. The detailed report relies on interviews with dozens of people who corroborate a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct with female employees.

The company says it is committed to operating with the “highest ethical standards and maintaining a safe and respectful culture.” In a statement sent to The Associated Press, it called the allegations part of a smear campaign related to divorce proceedings from Wynn’s ex-wife.

Wynn also denied the allegations personally.

Wynn, who is chairman and CEO of the company he founded, is a titan in Las Vegas and played a major role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s. It was Wynn’s company that built the Golden Nugget, The Bellagio and Mirage Resorts in the heart of the town.

A wave of sexual misconduct claims against prominent figures in entertainment, media and politics gained momentum last fall in the aftermath of articles detailing movie producer’s Harvey Weinstein’s decades of alleged rape and harassment. But Wynn is the first CEO and founder of a major publicly held company to come under scrutiny since the Weinstein allegations surfaced.

There appeared to be immediate business implications for the casino magnate. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission said Friday it is launching a review following the allegations published by the Journal. Spokeswoman Elaine Driscoll said the commission’s investigations and enforcement bureau will conduct a regulatory review to determine the appropriate next steps, adding “the suitability and integrity of our gaming licensees is of the utmost importance.”

Wynn is building a roughly $2.5 billion resort in the Boston suburb of Everett.

In a lengthy statement, Wynn and his company both attributed the allegations to a campaign led by Wynn’s ex-wife, Elaine Wynn.

“The conduct of Elaine during the course of the pending lawsuits has been shocking and deeply disturbing to me personally and as the CEO of Wynn Resorts,” Wynn said.

Devon Spurgeon, a spokeswoman for Elaine Wynn, declined to comment on the allegations in the article or Steve Wynn’s allegations responding to the article.

In its reporting, The Wall Street Journal stated that none of the alleged victims reached out to the publication. Instead, the newspaper said it sought out more than 150 people who had worked for Wynn, many of whom did not want to go on record for fear of losing their jobs.

The newspaper reported that Wynn’s actions were well known enough that employees would sometimes enter fake appointments in the books to help other female workers avoid him. In some cases, female employees in the salon would hide in back rooms if they knew Wynn was on his way to the casino.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. said there has never been a complaint made about Wynn to the company’s independent hotline for reporting harassment.

The White House and the Republican National Committee did not respond to requests for comment Friday on Wynn’s status as the RNC’s finance chair.

Wynn has been a prolific Republican donor, contributing more than $600,000 to GOP causes last year, according to the Federal Election Commission. Among his 2017 beneficiaries are Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada whose re-election campaign received almost $19,000 from Wynn and his wife last year.

Heller, once a sharp critic of President Donald Trump, faces a difficult re-election fight this year in a state Democrat Hillary Clinton carried, but where Republican Danny Tarkanian is challenging him in the June primary. Heller campaign aides did not immediately return messages requesting comment on the contributions.

Since 2013, Wynn has contributed nearly $2.4 million to GOP candidates and party organizations around the country, including 2017 special election winners as well as dozens of state Republican Party committees.

In 2016, Wynn contributed $167,000 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and made individual donations totaling $5,400 each to Republican Senate campaigns of Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski, Florida’s Marco Rubio, South Carolina’s Tim Scott, Texas’ Ted Cruz and Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson.

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