STEVE WYNN: How A Humble Keno Manager Became The Most Powerful Gaming Magnate In The World

steve wynn

Photo: AP Images

It’s hard to argue that one specific person has had more of an impact on a city than Steve Wynn has had on Las Vegas. Vegas was around for a long time,  but Wynn is credited for bringing the megaresort to the Las Vegas strip and taking the luxury experience to the next level. 

Believe it or not, the visionary behind the Mirage, Bellagio, and Wynn hotels actually suffers from a major physical disability. 

But he has overcome all obstacles to build a company that is expected to deliver $1.3 billion in Q2 revenue when it announces earnings this afternoon.

Steve Wynn was born as Stephen Alan Weinberg and into a gaming family

Steve Wynn was born as Steven Alan Weinberg, and he was born into a family of gaming, just not quite the same level of gaming that has become synonymous with Wynn's brand. His family owned a bingo operation in Maryland.

Just before Wynn finished his studies at the University of Pennsylvania, his father died. Wynn proceeded to take over the bingo operation, which allowed him to make many contacts in the gaming industry.

Source: Online Nevada

He moved to Las Vegas, and right away he made some savvy business moves

A few years after his father's passing, Wynn decided to head west. He purchased a small percentage of the Frontier Hotel, eventually becoming the casino's slot and keno manager.

After he left the Frontier, Wynn began purchasing small pieces of land on the strip, one of which was adjacent to Caesars Palace at Flamingo Road. In a very savvy business move, Wynn stated he planned to build a casino next to Caesars, but he really just wanted to be bought out. Wynn got the deal he wanted, as he sold the land to Caesars for $2.25 million, personally making $687,000 on the deal.

Source: Online Nevada

Early in his career, Wynn was diagnosed with a degenerative eye disease

While he was making his moves in Las Vegas, Wynn was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that effectively eliminates a person's night vision and seriously limits their ability to use their peripheral vision.

Throughout his life, Wynn has dealt with the vision issues and had several surgeries to help maintain his eyesight.

Source: Daily Mail

He eventually bought his way to the top of the Golden Nugget and expanded to Atlantic City

With the money he made on his land deal with Caesars, Wynn started buying up shares in the Golden Nugget. He eventually became chairman of the company, developing a Golden Nugget casino in Atlantic City and a new hotel tower in Las Vegas.

With a series of issues in Atlantic City during the 1980's that linked Wynn to mobsters, he opted to sell the casino in Atlantic City to Bally's Entertainment for a $260 million profit.

Source: Online Nevada

Wynn completely changed the game with The Mirage, the first megaresort on the Vegas Strip

After he sold the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, Wynn began putting his focus back on Las Vegas. Wynn received $1 billion in credit to build a new casino, some of which was through junk bonds.

With newly found credit, Wynn built the Mirage, a $620 million casino that opened in 1989. This new type of casino, labelled as a 'megaresort,' changed Las Vegas forever.

With the Mirage succeeding, Wynn decided to build another casino directly next to it, Treasure Island.

Source: Investing Value

Competitors followed Wynn's lead and developed massive resorts on the strip

Competitors were forced to challenge the Mirage's impressive features and size, which led to the creation of many new hotels.

Theme hotels became the norm in Las Vegas, as the Excalibur, Luxor, and Venetian hotels, to name a few, were created in response to Wynn's megaresort.

Source: Lubbock Online

In 1998, Wynn changed the game again, dropping $1.6 billion to build the Bellagio

After successfully creating and managing casinos for decades, Wynn set to raise the standards of Las Vegas casinos even higher.

In 1998, the Bellagio was created, costing $1.6 billion to develop. Still one of, if not the, the classiest casinos in Las Vegas, with a presence on the strip that is unmatched. One of the most notable features of the Bellagio is an 8-acre artificial lake, holding the famous Fountains of Bellagio.

Source: Casino Man

But after some missteps, MGM Grand and Kirk Kerkorian bought Wynn out

During Wynn's development of the Bellagio, he also built a Mississippi casino. Due to a $700 million overrun on the casino and shareholder criticism, stock in Mirage resorts tumbled. MGM Grand owner Kirk Kerkorian launched a bit to take over Mirage Resorts, which Wynn eventually agreed to.

In a hostile takeover, Kerkorian paid $6.7 billion for the buyout. Wynn reluctantly accepted the deal, but did walk away with $500 million from the sale. One month later, with the funds acquired in the deal, Wynn purchased the Desert Inn for $270 million, as he plotted a quick comeback.

Source: Online Nevada

Wynn came back with the Wynn Las Vegas, which eclipsed the luxury offered by the Bellagio

Wynn imploded the Desert Inn to build a hotel subtly named Wynn Las Vegas. At a cost of $2.7 billion, this was his most expensive casino yet, and his name was literally riding on its success.

Wynn found a partner in Kazuo Okado of Universal Entertainment Corporation, and the two owned almost half of the stock of the company. This was a strategic move to prevent another buyout situation similar to Mirage Resorts.

The hotel opened on April 28, 2005, and was the first property under the newly formed Wynn Resorts Limited corporation.

Source: USA Today

He's currently making big moves in Macau, Asia's gaming hub

Macau had been Asia's top gaming destination for quite some time, but had just one operator in Stanley Ho. In 2002, the Chinese government allowed new owners to develop casinos, with Wynn being one of the first to be approved.

Wynn spent $1.2 billion to create the Wynn Macau Resort, a similar but smaller hotel than the Wynn Las Vegas. In 2008, the Wynn Macau became the only hotel in Macau to receive the Mobil Five-Star award.

Source: Wynn Macau Limited

His encore to the Wynn Las Vegas was Encore

With Wynn now having two resorts under the Wynn Resorts Limited umbrella, he set out to develop a sister casino in Las Vegas, similar to the Venetian and Palazzo hotels that Sheldon Adelson created in the 1990's.

Wynn created Encore, with very similar exterior features as Wynn Las Vegas. Encore and Wynn collectively hold more five-star awards than any other casino-resort in the world.

Two years later, Encore at Wynn Macau was developed, adding 414 suites to the Macau resort.

Source: Wynn Resorts

Despite his successes, he's still reminded of his disability. In 2006, Wynn put his elbow through a $139 million Picasso

Wynn bought 'Le Reve,' a portrait of Picasso's mistress, Marie-Therese Walter for $48 million in 1997 and flipped it to SAC Capital's Steve Cohen for $139 million nine years later in 2006.

The problem? While he was having a 'going away' party for the picture, he accidentally put his elbow through the picture. His vision problems, the aforementioned retinis pigmentosa, were the cause of the mistake. The accident cost $40 million in damages and it was never sold.

The first ever show to open in the Wynn Las Vegas resort is named 'Le Reve.'

Source: Forbes

These days, Wynn gives the best investor conference calls in the business

When you listen to Wynn speak about his business and the future of the gaming and resort industry, you really get to understand how vast his knowledge is.

Wynn has a history of making articulate and bold quotes during his conference calls, such as his criticism of the current presidential administration and his strive towards building a great customer experience rather than vast facilities that are often underused.

'We have an administration that is fanning the fires that is somehow undeserved, profligate millionaires, and it is worse than hypocrisy. It is totally dishonest.' - Q3 2011 conference call

'All of the razzmatazz and jazz we hear about facilities and everything else doesn't amount to a hill of beans. It's the customer experience that determines the longevity and endurance of these enterprises.' Q1 2008 conference call.

Source: Business Insider

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