Sunday, December 28, 2014

The frustrations of Steve Wynn

In a Q&A with Wall Street analysts, Steve Wynn talks about the frustration of dealing with regulators in other states.

The frustrations of Steve Wynn

Gaming mogul Steve Wynn, who is one of six applicants vying for Philadelphia´s second gaming license. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)
Gaming mogul Steve Wynn, who is one of six applicants vying for Philadelphia's second gaming license. (Ed Hille / Staff Photographer)

Steve Wynn is a big, big name in Las Vegas and Macau. In fact, Wynn Resorts draws so much of its business from China that Wynn is fond of calling the business an Asian company.

But as Wynn tries to expand his franchise to other U.S. cities, starting with Philadelphia and Boston, he’s feeling, well, a little under-appreciated. That’s what he told Wall Street analysts during a conference call Thursday to discuss the company’s earnings.

On going through the regulatory wringer in Massachusetts, where Wynn Resorts wants to build a $1.2-billion resort casino in the town of Everett adjacent to Boston, this is what Wynn said:

“Basically these states are asking us to come and spend billions of dollars. Now, if we were any other business, they would stand on their head and spit wooden nickels to get billions of dollars invested from any other business. But we find ourselves being treated, in many respects, as if they're doing us a favor.”

 “…If I was any other business and I was willing to spend the kind of money, create the kind of jobs that these states have requested, we would have the red carpet rolled out for us and the governor and everybody else would be delighted to talk to us. But if you're in the gaming business, there's sort of a crummy presumption that you might be unsavory. And that burns me up, I tell you the truth.

 “And I got to – I try and get over it because then people say that you're arrogant or you're disdainful of the process.”

 Massachusetts is in the process of awarding its first casino licenses, but Pennsylvania legalized gaming in 2004.

 Wynn took aim at “freshman regulatory agencies” and “their unbelievable preoccupation that maybe a gangster is going to get in.” Wynn said one investigator with an unnamed state asked “one of my outside directors for proof of the ownership of his car. For crying out loud, how ridiculous! And we had to pay for this crap by the hour. And another person wanted to ask a 56-year married person on my board, a person of extraordinary character and reputation, for proof of his marriage license.”

 This is what happens, when you leave the fold of Las Vegas. So why is Wynn venturing into regional gaming? He told analysts he wasn’t into riverboats or racinos. No, what he’s trying to re-create in Philadelphia and Boston through “Wynn America” is “the era of the grand hotel.”

 “I love the old, the heyday of the Waldorf Astoria and the Ritz and places like that. So I thought, well here comes a chance to resurrect the grand hotel in Boston and Philadelphia. And we'll bring our brand to those cities and bring people from outside the region into the region.”

 With “one or two exceptions,” the face of regional gaming in America, Wynn sniffed, is “homely” especially racinos. “But we were going to build something that would be a case study on what's really nice and pretty in town. And then if they had gambling in Dallas or Houston or in Chicago, they would come to us.”

About this blog

Reporter Jennifer Lin follows the competition among the six contenders for Philadelphia’s second gaming license.

Harold Brubaker Inquirer Staff Writer
Jennifer Lin Inquirer Staff Writer
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