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Wynn bets on good first impressions

Dec 30, 2008 5:05 PM
Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener |

Steve Wynn may have taken a close look at the casino industry’s struggle for business in a dismal economy and decided that special times require special measures.

That’s just a guess because aside from admitting the obvious, that he did chop rates, Wynn has not had much to say about his decision to discount Encore room rates to a degree not seen before. The previous Wynn thinking on this subject has been something to the effect that it is hard to get full price once customers have developed a taste for bargains.

There was an impressive response several weeks ago when Wynn employees heard their boss had turned to the Internet wholesalers to make certain both the Wynn and Encore were full when the latter opened.

There is only one chance to make a good first impression, Wynn probably reasoned, and his idea of good first impressions requires casinos full of people, whatever they might be paying for their rooms.

More than 20,000 room nights were sold in the first two days of Internet business, according to unofficial sources. One website showed Encore rooms available for $179. That’s what an interested customer could get without knowing anyone.

A previous paying customer at the Wynn – "I’ve stayed there three times in the last two years," – recently received an "ordinary mailer" from the Encore offering him three free nights almost any time during the month of January.

A recent online check of Las Vegas room rates showed all other Strip properties appearing to line up somewhere below the Encore. Room rates are subject to change almost daily and continue to be one of the most sensitive and accurate barometers of the level of business in town.

None of this is good news for MGM Mirage and Fontainebleau officials who have been pushing forward with major new resort projects expected to debut in late 2009.

The challenge appears to be particularly daunting for the Fontainebleau which lacks MGM’s ability to boost financing efforts by selling off existing assets.

Encore for tip policy

Casino floormen at the Encore are receiving a share of the tokes earned by dealers, but the tips earned at the Encore and the neighboring Wynn are being divided separately among employees working in either of the two casinos.

Steve Wynn’s decision to continue the controversial policy introduced at the Wynn suggests there will be continued grumbling among Wynn dealers who saw red when Wynn decided to boost the pay for floormen by cutting them in on the tokes.

Wynn has since defended that policy, saying that the result has been improvements in customer service that appear to have produced more money for all employees affected by the policy.

Gamers impressed by Wynn’s Encore

"They are just more advanced than anyone else." That was Jack Binion’s reaction to Steve Wynn’s fascinating approach to resort design in the new Encore. "They (the Wynn team) are just more advanced than everyone else."

"It’s spectacular, the things he has done there," former Wynn casino executive Dennis Gomes was saying.

Binion and Gomes both have large reputations as operators of their own casinos during recent years, but they were among the many leaders and followers in the gaming industry who were anxious to get early looks at the $2.4 billion Encore.

Binion, who briefly ran Wynn’s Macau operation, found that the look and feel of Encore – its use of modules and emphasis on reds reminded him of Macau.

Gomes was intrigued by the clustering of slots and table games in relatively small groupings. "He’s mixed them together," Gomes said.

Another executive talked about the use of red. "If you like a lot of red than you’ll like Encore." Asian gamblers, he explained, react positively to the use of red. The player’s club card for both the Encore and the Wynn is known as the Red Card.