US Department of Justice Takes Former Casino Billionaire Steve Wynn over His Refusal to Register as Agent of the Chinese Government

On May 17, the US Department of Justice took the former casino mogul Steve Wynn to court, as the authorities are seeking to compel him to register as an agent of China under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) because of his alleged lobbying work in favor of the Chinese Government.

The Department revealed that, over the last four years, it had repeatedly advised the billionaire to register under the FARA and is now taking Mr. Wynn to court since he refused to do so. Although the Department has enhanced its efforts to criminally prosecute people who are not registered as foreign agents, the case of the former casino owner was described by officials as the first of its kind in more than 30 years.

According to the claims of the US Department of Justice, the 80-year-old Wynn had gotten in contact with the then-US president Donald Trump and members of his administration in 2017 to present China’s request to cancel the visa of a Chinese businessperson who had asked the US to provide him with political asylum. The efforts to have this person removed from the country were ultimately unsuccessful.

Steve Wynn’s lawyers said that they would contest the lawsuit, as they disagree with the US Department of Justice’s legal interpretation of the FARA. They claim that their client had never acted as an agent of the Chinese government, so he is not subject to any obligation to register as such under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Steve Wynn Allegedly Lobbied in Favor of the Chinese Government to Retain Casino Influence in Macau

The Foreign Agents Registration Act, also known as FARA, was enacted in 1938 as a way to unmask the Nazi propaganda in the US by requiring agents of foreign countries to disclose to the Justice Department when they lobby, advocate or perform public relations work on behalf of a foreign government or political entity.

The lawsuit against Steve Wynn claims that the lobbying effort was made by the ex-casino mogul, who in 2018 stepped down from his role in Wynn Resorts after facing some accusations of sexual misconduct, was done by Mr. Wynn on behalf of senior officials of the Chinese Government, including the then-vice minister of the Ministry of Public Security Sin Lijun. It included a number of conversations with then-President Trump over dinner and by phone.

In its complaint, the US Department of Justice claims that Mr. Wynn was drawn into his lobbying efforts on behalf of the Chinese Government by Elliott Broidy, who is known as a prominent fundraiser for former President Trump and Republican Party’s political campaigns. In 2020, Broidy pleaded guilty to organizing an illegal lobbying campaign aimed at convincing the Trump administration to cease an investigation into a Malaysian state investment fund.

According to the complaint filed by the US Department of Justice, Steve Wynn was motivated to protect his business interest in China, as he owned and operated casino venues in Macau at the time. As the allegations follow, the number of gaming tables and machines that could be operated at Wynn’s casinos had been restricted by the Government of Macau, so the owner was set to renegotiate licenses to operate his casinos in 2019.