Changes on tap at Wynn hotel

Nov 1, 2005 3:41 AM

What’s going on at Wynn Las Vegas?

Wynn continues getting all the attention that goes with being the big new place in town. Then there is Wynn himself who has always been a magnet for attention, even when he would have been happy to avoid it. Name another resort executive who has been known to earn $50,000 for giving speeches.

Nevertheless, consider the following:

Wynn has put his next Strip project — the smaller Encore — on hold for the moment, as he considers a possible third entertainment production at WLV.

A third production? There’s a rumor that Wynn’s Broadway import, "Avenue Q," hasn’t generated the crowds, dollars and enthusiasm that many thought it would. There’s even talk of Wynn buying out its contract.

There are more rumors Wynn is closing, or will close, his art museum. A voice in the PR office says, yes, they are aware of such talk but do not have any information to share.

It’s been a few years, but I remember Wynn talking about how he wanted the art more than he wanted the Mirage Resorts stock that he sold to make his first major purchases. All right, so a man is entitled to change his mind.

Lounge entertainment at the Wynn is being shut down without explanation or any word about how things are being re-engineered or why.

All this seems very unWynn-like, as he has always had a song in his heart for the importance of entertainment as a driver of casino activity.

There are reports that Wynn’s "poker ambassador" Danny Negreanu, last year’s "Player of the Year" is out or, at least, leaving. Once again, the PR department has heard talk of this but has nothing to say. Negreanu himself did not return a phone call.

Then we have Wynn reportedly getting into what some lawyers would call, a, uh, shouting match with former Wynn table game shift boss Frank Toddre, who apparently wants nothing more in life than to become GM at the Golden Nugget Laughlin.

The problem is Toddre, who had a non-compete clause in his contract, never told Wynn he was going to a competing casino. Instead, he said he was retiring. Obviously miffed with Toddre and Golden Nugget, Wynn got a restraining order preventing Toddre from taking the position.

A hearing to settle the dispute will be held in a couple of weeks.

Yes, there’s something out of kilter. News reports of this sort do not normally seep out without artfully constructed explanations about who is doing what to whom and why.

Other sources contend the over-all pressure in the Wynn organization has never been more intense. Perhaps it all has to do with maintaining a satisfactory cash flow at the most expensive resort ever built, a resort that was said to require average daily revenue of about three million when it opened in April.

Hail to Haley!

This Haley Barbour, he’s doing a heck of a job.

Penn National Chairman Peter Carlino said the Mississippi governor’s leadership in quickly reaching out to understanding the nature of damage to the gaming industry and then just as quickly becoming an advocate of legislation to facilitate rebuilding deserves a round of applause.

Carlino had already written a personal note to Barbour at the time he made these remarks during a conference call with industry analysts.

Does this mean Carlino likes Barbour better than Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich? This stab at humor came from one of the analysts and Carlino responded with a brief, dry chuckle before moving on.

Blagojevich, of course, is not known for extending casinos anything resembling a helping hand and the governor’s hand-picked Gaming Board has forced Penn to divest itself of two of the Argosy casinos it had hoped to buy.

More Illinois ills

Speaking of the strange nature of Illinois politics, that state’s legislators continue planting land mines around the casino industry. The latest is the passage of a House bill that calls for the closing of casinos by the end of 2007.

There’s no reason to suspect it stands any chance of passage in the Senate, according to seasoned watchers of the political and casino landscapes.

"It’s DOA in the Senate," insists a source, who spoke on the condition he not be identified.

If that’s the case then the more significant issue is the continuing nonsense that can do nothing but discourage the capital spending that creates jobs and generates tax revenue.

The idea behind this legislation would ultimately be to put existing licenses out for bid and ensure they are re-bid every few years. Casino industry foes such as House Speaker Mike Madigan have always contended that the money-grubbing out-of-state casino owners should be required to pay more for the pleasure of doing business there.

Penn’s Peter Carlino termed the House bill "silly posturing that has more to do with politics than the industry ”¦ Politicians are using us (the industry) as a pawn for a greater purpose."

Where are Illinois visionaries like Abe Lincoln when you need them?