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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Jeff Simpson on why, despite all the criticism, Wynn stands behind his tip-sharing plan

8 July 2007

Among the issues I'm writing about this week, I first want to note the large number of responses I received following my column last week.

In that column I reported Steve Wynn's plans to keep the tip-sharing plan he's instituted on his casino floor at Wynn Las Vegas, and wrote that I supported a business owner's right to balance the compensation of his employees, even tipped workers.

As of Friday afternoon, the e-mail count was 45 critical of Wynn, my column and tip-sharing, with only six supportive of what I wrote. A big majority of those e-mails were angry, liberally sprinkled with profanity and insults.

Phone messages were similar, with eight critical and one supporting my column.

I spoke by phone to Wynn last week about an unrelated casino business issue as he prepared to fly to Sun Valley, Idaho , for the holiday. When I told him about the strong response I received to my column, largely critical, he told me he's more certain than ever that he made the right decision to start the tip-sharing plan.

Wynn said the final numbers for the Wynn Las Vegas second quarter are in, and the blackjack hold percentage doubled from 10 percent in the second quarter of 2006 to 20 percent this year .

He credited his crew of team leaders, motivated after receiving partial shares of the tip pool, with the improvement, saying that they had obviously been able to stop some blackjack mischief - referring to the lower hold percentage that he thinks was likely caused by cheating, collusion or supervisors who didn't stop card counting.

"The change is too big to be driven by luck," Wynn said. "Statewide the hold is about 15 percent. I think I've pulled the sheet off of some problems, and when you look at the statewide number , there must be problems at a bunch of other places."

• • •

I wrote in February that I expected Binion's to be sold, and owner MTR Gaming recently announced plans to do just that, with a deal to sell the once-proud casino to Four Queens owner Terry Caudill.

After making a lot of money in the slot-bar business, Caudill has done well at the Four Queens with a modest budget, slowly remodeling and adding features to make the property competitive with its neighbors, if not with the newer locals casinos and the big resorts on the Strip.

Fixing Binion's will be more difficult, but with its storied history and past success - and with market leader Golden Nugget across Fremont Street, the potential is there. I've had a lot of fun at what was then the Horseshoe, so I'm rooting for Caudill to make the purchase pay off.

• • •

In Business Las Vegas reporter Brian Wargo wrote an interesting story that ran in abbreviated form in the Sun on July 3.

Henderson developer LandWell Co. donated four acres to the Public Education Foundation, a gift that will hopefully provide an affordable housing solution for a few dozen teachers as the site of about 40 condominiums the foundation would build.

Other valley businesses should follow LandWell's worthy example and do what they can to help the foundation provide affordable housing for teachers, whether they can donate land, construction materials, labor or cash.

Jeff Simpson is business editor of the Las Vegas Sun and executive editor of sister publication In Business Las Vegas.