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Feds probe Wynn over $135M China donation (Boston Herald)

By Dave Wedge, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 04--Wynn Resorts, which is seeking to build a $1 billion waterfront casino in Everett, is facing a federal probe into a massive donation the Las Vegas gaming behemoth made to a Chinese university headed by a top government official, according to recent court filings.

In an April 8 filing in a Nevada court, federal prosecutors said they are investigating a $135 million donation from Wynn to the University of Macau, which is headed by a Chinese official with oversight over gaming. The donation, described in a suit against Wynn by his estranged business partner Kazuo Okada, came a month before Wynn won key approval for his proposed $4 billion Macau casino, Okada's lawyers charge.

"The government has been conducting a criminal investigation into that conduct," Department of Justice prosecutors state in the Nevada filing.

The feds included the information in a motion to intervene in the suit between Wynn and Okada. A judge recently granted prosecutors' motion for a six-month delay in the suit.

Prosecutors also say in the filing they are probing allegations that Okada paid off officials in the Philippines, where the Japanese billionaire is planning to build a $2 billion casino. Okada has denied the allegations.

Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said Okada's "pay to play" claims were already investigated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which determined they were "unfounded."

Of the federal probe, Weaver said: "The company has not received formal notice of any such investigation but would cooperate fully with federal authorities examining the matter. We have been completely transparent with the Massachusetts Gaming Commission regarding all company litigation and believe nothing would impact our ability to be licensed."

A DOJ spokesman declined to comment.

Wynn is just the latest casino titan hoping to build in Massachusetts to come under scrutiny for activities in Asia. MGM, which is seeking to build an $800 million casino in Springfield, pulled out of Atlantic City after New Jersey gaming officials raised concerns that an MGM official's father had ties to Asian organized crime. MGM has downplayed the controversy and is now seeking renewal of its New Jersey license, according to published reports.

The Massachusetts gaming commission has sent investigators to Macau to review records related to MGM and Wynn.

Meanwhile, another casino developer last night laid out plans for a $1 billion proposal in Milford.

Foxwoods will provide 3,500 jobs with local hiring preference, approximately $20 million per year in tax revenue to the town of Milford and the purchase of approximately $50 million per year in goods and services from local vendors and suppliers, Foxwoods CEO Scott Butera said.


(c)2013 the Boston Herald

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