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Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Resigns


Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn is stepping down as the head of Wynn Resorts. He says he's leaving after what he describes as an avalanche of negative publicity. The charge, allegations of sexual assault that first came to light in a report by The Wall Street Journal. Stocks in the company have been falling, and Wynn already stepped down as the Republican Party's finance chair following these allegations. NPR's Leila Fadel joins us now from Las Vegas.

Good morning, Leila.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MARTIN: Remind us of the specific allegations against Steve Wynn.

FADEL: Well, he's accused of decades of sexual misconduct including an incident in which Wynn is accused of forcing a manicurist at his hotel to have sex with him, and that case reportedly led to a $7.5 million settlement. Now, Wynn has denied all these accusations. He is under investigation by two gaming control boards here in Nevada, and also in Massachusetts. He already resigned as finance chair for the Republican Party, and now he's stepping down as CEO of the company he founded. But the board of Wynn Resorts issued a statement really praising Wynn and saying they were making this decision reluctantly.

MARTIN: So the Me Too movement has been the undoing of a long list of men in powerful positions, but it is hard to overstate how much influence Steve Wynn has in Las Vegas, right?

FADEL: Right. I mean, this is a man who is responsible for the way the Strip looks, the Las Vegas Strip. He built the Bellagio, Treasure Island, the Mirage. His name is emblazoned on the side of his sleek-looking hotel on the strip. And so that really can be quite intimidating. And so the fact that women are coming forward shows how empowered they feel. Actually, the Las Vegas Review Journal reported that they killed a story about 20 years ago involving sexual allegations against Wynn at the time. When lawyers got involved, the newspaper paid for a lie detector test for the accusers, and, ultimately, the newspaper asked the reporter to completely delete the story off the computer system.

MARTIN: So Steve Wynn, as CEO of Wynn Resorts, would obviously be a very rich man. Are there any repercussions to him financially at this moment because he's had to step down in the wake of these allegations?

FADEL: Yeah. These are the first allegations like this against the CEO, now former CEO, of a publicly traded company. And so that's showing in the stock market. Shares of Wynn Resorts have dropped by about 20 percent since the allegations were reported last month, and the Hong Kong Stock Exchange suspended trading of Wynn Macau limited on Wednesday. Now, Macau is the Chinese territory that is the world's most lucrative gambling market and where Wynn Resorts run its most profitable casinos.

MARTIN: The Wynn story obviously brings to light the situation of women who work in service industries, right, which we haven't heard a ton of in the stories, in the coverage of the Me Too movement and the abuse that these particular women have to endure. How has this particular scandal generated conversation in Vegas around how to protect women who work on the Strip?

FADEL: Right. As you say, these are not powerful, wealthy women. They're working in a service industry, and a lot of them are working on the Strip as cocktail waitresses, as casino dealers, housekeepers, bartenders, and they're catering in some cases to really wealthy, powerful men. And high rollers' behaviors are often excused, casino workers say, by their bosses because of how much they spend. So the culinary union, which represents thousands of hotel workers, is asking for panic buttons in hotel rooms for housekeepers to press if there's danger, in the next contract negotiations. And people are looking to the gaming control board, as well.

MARTIN: NPR's Leila Fadel in Las Vegas this morning. Thanks so much, Leila.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.