Posts tagged steve wynn

If you don’t see a video, it’s…

If you don’t see a video, it’s here: http://youtu.be/EqZ82UwJuBQ

Author David G. Schwartz summarizes chapter 15, “A Clockwork Volcano: Las Vegas Strikes Back,” of Roll the Bones: The History of Gambling (Casino Edition).

This chapter starts by discussing some of the technological changes that made possible the rise of slot machines, like the introduction of video poker and wide area progressive games like Megabucks. It then talks about The Mirage, which opened in 1989 and kicked off the 1990s boom for Las Vegas. Although it completely changed the Las Vegas Strip, before it opened, many were skeptical that it would succeed.

We then learn about other important companies like MGM Mirage and the Mandalay Resort Group, which, through a series of mergers (including one with Mirage Resorts) became MGM Resorts. Las Vegas Sands, which owns the Venetian and Palazzo, is also profiled.

For more information about the book, visit http://www.rollthebonesbook.com

Talking about Steve Wynn talking about Mirage at TWHT

Sometimes I like to share things that I find while plumbing through the archives, just because. Yesterday I did just that at Two Way Hard Three:

Working on my lecture for tomorrow about Las Vegas gaming in the 1980s and 1990s, I wanted to go back to some of the original sources. So I’ve been browsing through the archives quite a bit.

I found a press release issued on November 14, 1989 titled “MIRAGE RESORT SETS NEW DIRECTION FOR LAS VEGAS.” For those keeping score at home, that’s 8 days before the Mirage’s grand opening

via From the archives: SW talks Mirage, 1989 | Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog | from ratevegas.com.

It’s always neat to see how people thought (or hoped) things were going to turn out, and compare it to how they actually did. Ten years from now we’ll be able to do this with CityCenter.

Marilyn Spiegel interview

About 2 weeks ago, I interviewed Marilyn Spiegel for a profile piece in Vegas Seven. There are always space constraints, so I thought it would be a good idea to record the interview and post at at UNLV Gaming Podcasts, mostly so she can share her story in her own words.

I”m having some issues with iTunes presently–it may not show up in your feed, but you can get it here:

29-March 3, 2011
Marilyn Spiegel, President and CEO, Wynn Las Vegas
In this interview with CGR Director David G. Schwartz, Spiegel shares her thoughts on luxury at Wynn Las Vegas and chronicles her career in gaming.

Listen to the audio file (mp3)

One area that I’m sure people will be interested in is her thoughts on the closing of Alex. In his February conference call, Steve Wynn credited her with making him rethink the restaurant. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“There were already thoughts about customer preference at Alex,” she says. “Alex Stratta is a phenomenal chef, but the dining experience is lengthy and American tastes have changed.”

Spiegel has no doubts that she made the right call.

“We have capacity in our other restaurants. If you’re able to drive the fixed costs of your restaurants over more covers, it’s more efficient. And if that space can be used better for a different idea, so be it.”

Its at about the 24-minute mark of the podcast, if you want to skip ahead.

I wanted to know what a food critic thought of Spiegel’s call, so I asked John Curtas of Eating Las Vegas. Here’s his response to me, which regrettably didn’t make the final cut of the article:

Great restaurants inside hotels are amenities that the hotel either does or does not want to offer its guests. Wynn has made a calculated decision to abandon his “great chefs/restaurants” brands of ‘o5, and it has nothing to do with “America’s changing tastes.” They think their customers won’t mind, and they think they can make more money with mediocrity.

The whole “fine dining is dead” chestnut is used as an excuse by chefs/restaurateurs/hotels to cut back on quality (and increase their profits) by pretending to be “with it.” My educated guess is Ms. Spiegel is more interested in pushing steaks and booze on her high rollers/nightclubbers than anything with a whiff of sophistication about it.

Leisurely, fine dining has always been a niche market for the aspirational and well-heeled. It hasn’t gone away, it’s simply not (quite) as fashionable as it was five years ago. Every high-end restaurateur I’ve spoken with, from the Bellagio to Caesars Palace, has told me their business is up…and doing even better now that people who would’ve dined at ALEX are looking for their big deal meals elsewhere. (If you don’t believe me, I’ll take you on a tour of a few of them some night).
John Curtas, Eating Las Vegas

Pretty strong stuff that definitely adds a different perspective.

Overall, I think Marilyn Spiegel has a great story that I’m glad I could help her share with people.

Wynn points to the future

I’ve got a new Las Vegas Business Press column up, in which I discuss the historical context behind Wynn’s musings about moving to Macau.

Steve Wynn made headlines when he suggested he might consider moving the headquarters of Wynn Resorts Ltd. to Macau from Las Vegas. As always, Wynn's forthrightness points the way to a larger truth about the future of the casino industry.

Wynn Resorts is a Las Vegas success story. Since moving here in 1967 as a part-owner of the Frontier, Steve Wynn has been one of the city's prime movers.

He began making a mark in 1973, when he became the chief executive officer of the Golden Nugget, then a small downtown casino with no real distinction.

Wynn's aspirations outside of Las Vegas have always been an important piece of the puzzle.

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : When Wynn speaks, gaming listens.

I think that many of the so-called pundits have reacted more emotionally than rationally to Wynn lately, particularly since he’s become critical of the current administration, and that’s what’s driving some of the comments out there. We talked about this a little on the latest Vegas Gang.

Wynn’s political opinions and the possibility of his moving the headquarters of his company are, I think, two separate issues. It’s not like he’s threatening to go John Galt on us: he’s just saying that he might move more elements of Wynn Resorts to the city that is its top market. People give another prominent CEO grief for not living in Las Vegas, since that’s where the action is, and by this logic they should be demanding that Wynn spend more time in Macau.

The most fascinating thing about Wynn is that, like Jay Sarno, his career doesn’t have a single, predictable arc. If he did, he’d have just kept expanding the Golden Nugget or, at the very least, staying with that brand. Instead, you’ve had forays into Atlantic City, Mississippi, and Macau, with the sale of Mirage Resorts along the way. All the time, he was reacting to changing conditions. If things had gone differently in Atlantic City, he might not even have built the Mirage, or at the very least would have built it in Atlantic City, and casino history would be much different.

So it wouldn’t entirely surprise me if the next stage of Wynn’s career takes him in a completely different direction. It’s happened before and there’s no reason to think it won’t happen again.

CityCenter and traffic

I’ve been busy today getting the slot hold occasional paper finished up, so running the risk of CityCenter fatigue, here’s an excerpt from my last LVBP column about, you guessed it, CityCenter:

This might be the most novel thing visitors notice about CityCenter, at first. And its hard to believe that its not by design. One thing that sets CityCenter apart from other resorts on the Strip is that because of the density, you will never be far from the street when you’re in the public spaces. The third-floor pool, for example, faces a parking structure on the west. It’s not close enough to smell the exhaust, but it is in the field of vision of poolside loungers. This is a profoundly different sort of vibe than the usual “desert oasis” feel of most Las Vegas pools, where hotel towers or extensive setbacks remove visitors from traffic and, in a sense, reality

via Las Vegas Business Press :: David G. Schwartz : CityCenters pocket parks, traffic circles stand as symbol of Strips evolution.

Further down in the article, you’ll note my reference to plural “pocket parks.” When I wrote this I hadn’t seen the entire complex and was under the impression that there were more than one–I thought I heard someone calling the area outside Bar Vdara “one of the pocket parks,” but I either misheard or that was an error. Even though there’s just one, though, it’s still significant.

Of course, if you were Steve Wynn and you wanted to really rain on CityCenter’s parade (which he probably doesn’t) you could just say, “Twenty years before you unmasked Las Vegas’s first pocket park, I built its first pocket rain forest.” You got to say it in the “I’m Steve Wynn” voice, though.

Taking a bow

My Las Vegas Business Press piece on Encore is up. It’s an expansion of my original post on this site. Here’s my grand conclusion:

Encore, in its essence, is hopeful. Even the name is a reminder that something came before, and something will come after. It’s both a great new resort and a call to remember that as long as it continues to change, Las Vegas will survive.

Wynn should take a bow for Encore and its essence of hope.

Insomuch as it’s possible to plumb a casino opening for a deeper read on the current American mindset, I’m giving it a shot. I’d really like to develop this into a 2000-word or so essay that pulls in the history of the Strip, speculation, consumerism, much more. Any editors out there want to pay for such a piece? Just checking.

Together, I think Wynn and Encore are the first Vegas resort that’s not looking backward: there’s no nostalgia for the past or for imagined versions of other, more notable, places. It looks like City Center and Fountainebleau will be in the same mold. Whether you love or hate the Wynn suite of properties, you’ve got to admit that stylistically they are a world away from, say, the Palazzo and Venetian, which are supposed to evoke the glories of a city whose heyday passed before Columbus sailed. They are original without making a fetish of their modernism.

If we don’t have the airline capacity to deliver people to town, though, does any of this make a difference in 2009? Later in the week I’ll be developing my year-in-review/looking ahead columns, and I think that will be the big question.

Encore echoes

There’s been quite the buzz for Encore over the Internet. This quote from Oskar Garcia’s AP piece explains, I think, why Wynn gets it more than anyone except Jack Binion and a few others:

Wynn expected thousands to jam the entrances to the casinos on Monday night, as some of his best customers ceremoniously pull the first slots and play the first hand at each machine and table with $2 million in house money.

If they win — at prices of $1,000 to $25,000 — they get to keep the winnings, but Wynn says he expects they’ll play some more no matter what happens.

“I’ve never met a gambler that would win a bet and retire from gambling,” he said.

Wynn’s Encore opens during tough times for Vegas

There’s something else about the place that I didn’t mention yesterday–like Wynn, it has a sense of humor about itself. Many of the other luxury joints take themselves way too seriously. I don’t get the feeling that Encore does. There’s a real sense of whimsy running throughout the place. I’m sure a guy that’s just blown $25,000 at mini bacc would beg to differ, but I can see it.

I’ve got an idea that I will hopefully get to develop more in an essay somewhere: Encore is a themed hotel, but it’s themed around ideas, not a time or place. It’s not homogeneous, but it all ties together because it comes back to the idea of change, metamorphosis, and reinvention…which is the essence of Las Vegas, after all.

And now for an Encore

Dave’s thoughts on the opening of Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

Macau gloom bandwagon

For a while, the Big Story was how hot Las Vegas was. Then it was Macau: The Next Generation. Now that Vegas has cooled off a bit and Macau’s hitting a plateau, we’ve got a new story: Macau is in dire straits. Even Time has picked it up:

But in the wake of the faltering global economy, Macau is not such a sure bet anymore. The problem is that some of those giants embarked on overzealous building sprees — since 2004, the number of casinos in Macau has more than doubled to 31 — and now the global credit crisis is threatening to topple at least one of them. Adelson's company, Las Vegas Sands, has undertaken an aggressive expansion plan over the past few years, winning the bid to build the $4.6 billion Marina Bay Sands casino-resort in Singapore and developing a $743 million casino-resort in Pennsylvania, among other projects. The credit crisis has left the overextended company in danger of defaulting on $5.2 billion of loans secured by its Las Vegas operations. Last week, the company said it would work towards completing the Marina Bay site, but Singapore's government is making backup plans to enact if the Sands fails to raise the necessary funds to complete construction. Then, on Nov. 13, the cash-strapped company announced that it would layoff up to 11,000 construction workers in Macau, after its decision to suspend work on part of the Cotai Strip — a $12 billion undertaking. On Thursday, Las Vegas Sands' share price closed at $5.58, down 95% from its peak last December.

Dark Days Ahead for Asia’s Las Vegas? – TIME.

If you factor out the visa restrictions and other extrinsic factors, it’s hard to argue against Macau’s growth in the long term. Of course, all those extrinsic factors are what makes Macau…Macau.

I just wish that we could get stories weren’t so extreme. It’s always “this is the best every” or “things can’t get any worse.” Usually, though, things can get better, and of course things can always get worse.

But I doubt you’ll see a story whose gist is: Macau is a promising market but it’s currently got challenges that only smart operators will be able to overcome. It’s too nuanced, and it probably requires too many value judgments.

LVBP article

After what seems like months, I see that I’ve got another Business Press article available online:

Once, casinos threw huge parties to remind the community that they were a year older. Large cakes in the shape of the hotel were common, with showgirls gamely framing the desert in well-circulated publicity photographs. Casinos bought advertisements that trumpeted their age, frequently offering specials $5.55 prime rib on our fifth birthday to further drive home the message.

Today, casino managers are positively bashful when it comes to the age of their properties. They would no more throw a party with a giant cake replica of their casino than they would set all their machines to free-play. I'm not sure exactly when this change happened, but I'm certain that it did.

The question is why. Most likely, it's because of the accelerated product cycle in Las Vegas today: A five-year old resort is considered middle-aged, and a 20-year old one is practically a doddering codger if we're subscribing to the anthropomorphic fallacy and assigning human qualities to inanimate hunks of steel, concrete and glass. In that atmosphere, you don't want to draw attention to your age.

David G. Schwartz : Bellagio seems a bit bashful about turning 10.

It’s an elaboration of a blog post I made a few weeks ago–what a shocker. The deeper question is: how does the “agelessness” of Las Vegas casinos relate to broader American conceptions of growing old?