Where WYNN will go next is anyone's guess

Where WYNN will go next is anyone's guess

September 12, 2018 3:00 AM


The picture is coming together for a number of the Strip’s biggest operators as decision-makers cease their agonizing over visions that are still developing and reach for the future.

Will mistakes be made? Will there be satisfying discoveries? The answer to both questions is probably. I had planned to write about sports betting this week but what came suddenly to mind was one of those old but very memorable Kodak moments from May 2000.

Steve Wynn had agreed to spend $270 million buying the late Howard Hughes’ old hideout (aka the Desert Inn). He was intending it to be a “birthday present” for his then-wife Elaine.

Kind of like getting a power drill, she joked at the time. You wonder what you’re going to do with it.

All right, so the time for jokes has long since passed. Steve and Elaine are divorced now but Elaine Wynn is still thinking about what she’d like to do with the two casino resorts built on her “birthday present,” the land her ex gave her.

Maybe she is slipping helpful suggestions under the doors of key executives. Would you believe that?

No, I wouldn’t either.

SEC filings are more like it, filings guaranteed to get the attention of top execs at Wynn Resorts since she is believed the largest single holder of the publicly traded stock. She is believed to have 8-9 percent of the stock.

If that figure is correct her continuing interest in the company gets far more than casual attention.

Yes, she probably cheered the news that former Harrah’s chairman Phil Satre will be the new CEO at Wynn come the first of the year. Even Steve is probably pleased with that move.

The question still to be answered is this: will Satre and other board members be interested in operating or will they sell? The answer probably depends on the conditions attached to license reviews for the Macau casinos. And while we’re looking at the Pacific Rim let’s not forget about Japan where it may be 12-18 months before cities start accepting proposals that the Japanese have agreed to permit.

By then Wynn’s Boston Harbor hotel and casino will be open and the rapidly evolving legal sports betting business may have created fascinating new picture possibilities.

But on the subject of pictures, sports wagering in this post-PASPA era continues moving forward at a breath-taking rate. It is a popular vehicle for corporate expansion and marketing. For instance, Eldorado Resorts, a successful but small Reno-based company with three properties went on a spending spree buying casinos, and they now have 22 casinos in 11 states.

Eldorado is just one example of being in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s decision to remove the prohibition that had kept wide open legal sports wagering confined to Nevada. The picture was a good one so far as Eldorado officials were concerned.

In Washington, U.S. senators Orrin Hatch (Republican, Utah) and Charles Schumer (Democrat, New York) assessed the picture of events coming from the removal of PASPA’s restrictions and have decided there is a clear need for federal action that would apply in all states legalizing sports wagering.

But the train may have already left the station. There are signs some companies are comfortable with what they now have, a state by state approach.

Whether a Washington approach leads to legislation acceptable to all interests remains to be seen. Capitol Hill is not known for quick action.

There’s another element of the Nevada picture that’s still incomplete since the State Gaming Control Board does not expect to make the summary of suggested changes from Nevada casinos before the end of the week.