Wynn takes focus off gambling halls

Nov 22, 2005 3:37 AM

Pioneering casino mogul Steve Wynn said gambling halls that once helped put Las Vegas on the map are no longer the key ingredient in modern destination resorts.

Instead, casino developers must find unique attractions and creature comforts that will appeal to travelers, Wynn said. He cited facilities at his $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas resort, which opened last April.

"We didn’t cluster everything around the casino," Wynn said, adding that the hotel was "subdivided" into neighborhoods to create a greater sense of intimacy.

"Guests don’t want unique, they want things to be just like home, only better," Wynn said. "Casinos are actually at the bottom of the list of what they look for."

Wynn made his remarks at a luncheon in Cincinnati last week.

Wynn said that casinos in general are no longer unique since most Americans are within a 90-minute drive of a gambling table.

Tasked with the challenge of developing a resort to compete with the Bellagio that he created, Wynn said he had to revisit conventional wisdom about casino design when planning for Wynn Las Vegas.

Indeed, Wynn’s new property has set new parameters for casino-resort architecture. Even though the casino is centrally-located, the property has a variety of focal points on which guests can concentrate.

For instance, the cluster of upscale restaurants — besides being totally unique onto themselves — are set against the backdrop of a manmade mountain and lake, whose ambiance transports guests far from the madding crowds of the casino.

In addition, there is a promenade of high-end retailers, topped by a one-of-a-kind Ferrari dealership, which has taken on a celebrity of its own.

In his remarks before the Music Hall luncheon, Wynn said a constant challenge throughout his career is motivating employees.

Wynn recalled that in the 1970s he wanted to boost performance of the Golden Nugget in Atlantic City, but was frustrated by the sinking spirits of his employees.

In a move that garnered national attention, Wynn decided to give away cars to about 300 of his supervisors. Though expensive, the move sent a strong message to staff that their jobs were safe and that they should just concentrate on taking care of guests’ needs.

"If that car reminds you it’s showtime when you get here (at work), then it’s well worth the investment," Wynn recalled telling his supervisors.

By the end of the year, the hotel’s cash flow had doubled from $49 million the previous year to $108 million.

That’s probably why they call him the Magic Man.