SEC: Wynn Resorts Didn’t Play Any Dirty Games

Illustration by Chelsea Pieroni

Wynn Resorts Ltd. (NASDAQ:WYNN) received word from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it doesn’t plan to recommend any enforcement action against the casino operator’s Macau unit regarding its $135 million donation to the University of Macau Development Foundation. Wynn Resorts Chairman Steve Wynn said Monday that the SEC’s response provided an important public message of innocence for both him and the company.

“The company has asked for the letter of closure from the Securities and Exchange Commission,” Mr. Wynn said to The Wall Street Journal. ”It was a charitable donation. We do it all the time just like everybody else. We are fanatically compliant with the spirit and the letter of regulation.” The SEC’s letter closing the matter follows the Nevada Gaming Control Board’s conclusion reached earlier this year that the donation wasn’t problematic.

The donation was first announced by Wynn at a 2011 ceremony in Macau. Probes of the donation, first disclosed in February 2012, were prompted by a rift that opened earlier between the company and Japanese businessman Kazuo Okada, who was a major shareholder of the company and was ousted last year.

Wynn Resorts said it pushed Okada out of the company after an investigator it hired alleged he had bribed public officials. These alleged bribes are now the subject of a Justice Department investigation and are unrelated to the University of Macau donation. Wynn Resorts and Okada are  engaged in a continuing legal battle.

In the midst of the dispute with Wynn Resorts, Okada alleged in a Nevada court in 2012 that he questioned whether the university donation was an appropriate use of corporate funds given that the university sits on public land, and said the donation could be an attempt to improperly influence public officials in Macau. Wynn Resorts denied any wrongdoing. Mr. Wynn said Okada had wrongly tried to raise the donation as a point of leverage as part of his own dispute with the company.

U.S. and state authorities have been examining some of the practices of American casino companies in the Chinese gambling enclave of Macau, the world’s biggest gambling market and where Las Vegas Sands Corp. (NYSE:LVS), MGM Resorts International, (NYSE:MGM) and Wynn began highly profitable operations in the last decade.

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