Friday, Dec. 27, 2013 | 1:35 p.m.
BOSTON — State gambling regulators on Friday cleared Wynn Resorts to continue its pursuit of a proposed $1.2 billion resort casino outside Boston.
The five-member Massachusetts Gaming Commission said in a unanimous decision that Wynn had provided "clear and convincing evidence that it meets the standards for suitability," under the panel's guidelines for would-be casino operators.
The commission's investigative arm had previously recommended that the company, run by Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn, be found suitable for gambling after a lengthy background check that included a review of Wynn's operations in the Chinese territory of Macau and issues surrounding a land deal Wynn negotiated with the owners of the proposed casino site in Everett.
Wynn did not immediately comment on Friday's ruling, which clears the way for the company to submit a final casino application to the commission by the Tuesday deadline, though it does not guarantee the company will be awarded an operating license. It may be in competition with Mohegan Sun, which has proposed a casino on land owned by Suffolk Downs in Revere, for the sole eastern Massachusetts resort casino allowed under state law.
In its written decision, commissioners praised Wynn Macau for establishing policies and protocols for so-called junket operators and overall "responsible business practices" in the world's most lucrative gambling market.
Junket operators recruit from the mainland for gambling in VIP rooms in Macau's casinos, often providing credit to players. They have gotten the attention of regulators because of alleged connections to organized crime.
The commission's Investigations and Enforcement Bureau flagged concerns about a potential hidden ownership interest in the Everett site, a former chemical plant along the Mystic River, and has turned over its findings to state and federal prosecutors.
The panel earlier in the month approved a revised real estate deal that would substantially lower the original $75 million price Wynn had agreed to pay for the land while ensuring that no one with an undisclosed interest in the property would benefit from the sale.
Investigators said there was no evidence Wynn knew of the issues prior to the initial land deal and worked quickly to resolve the matter once it arose.
"While it could be argued that (Wynn) did minimal due diligence on the ownership of the land when it first executed its option, it is clear that once (Wynn) was made aware of the IEB's concerns ... it took immediate action to cure the situation," the commissioners wrote in their decision.
Stephen Crosby, the commission's chair, recused himself from the land deal vote because a friend and one-time business partner is among the co-owners of the property. But Crosby did participate in and sign the suitability decision, and has said he plans to be fully involved in the eastern Massachusetts licensing process.
Mohegan Sun won a favorable suitability determination earlier this year and was given permission to submit its application on Tuesday pending approval by Revere residents in a Feb. 25 referendum. The Revere-only casino plan emerged after East Boston voters rejected an earlier proposal by Suffolk Downs for a casino on the Boston-Revere border.