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LAS VEGAS -- After five years away from the action, Steve Wynn moved a step closer to operating a Strip casino as the Gaming Control Board voted unanimously Wednesday to recommend licensing of the $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas.
The Nevada Gaming Commission will consider the matter March 24. Wynn has said he plans to open the 2,700-room resort April 28.
Gaming regulators took less than two hours to recommend licensing approval for Wynn, Wynn Resorts Ltd., the resort's management team, and Wynn's business partner, Aruze Corp., a Japanese slot machine manufacturer.
"It's been a while since we've had a project of this size in front of us," control board Chairman Dennis Neilander said. "Mr. Wynn is an innovator, and I'm a regulator. We're very different. I can't even think along the same plane he does.
"But looking at this project from a regulatory perspective, there are no regulatory issues. He has a track record of taking his ideas and executing them very well."
Following the hearing, Wynn said the 60 months he has been away from the day-to-day operation of a casino operating company served as a catharsis, allowing him to focus on the development of the Strip resort, which is marked by a 50-story curved tower.
Wynn said he spent 2 1/2 years to design the property and another 2 1/2 years for construction.
"I was very, very isolated in manner of speaking," Wynn said. "There were other guys in the company who knew what the latest slot machine was or what was the latest piece of software technology. I didn't have to worry about that because I knew my colleagues would.
"I was focused on the more fundamental issues of human aspiration. Would my building somehow be an iteration of the most common things to humanity. Is there something else beyond Bellagio."
He also said the second phase of development for the Wynn Las Vegas site, which will include a second hotel tower, "Is far along in the design stage."
Wynn's team took less than an hour to make their arguments for licensing to the control board.
The only issue of minor consequence was the design of the casino's private gaming salons.
Wynn Las Vegas was seeking approval for three salons, but control board member Bobby Siller said his reading of the design showed just two locations and he questioned the use of the private dining areas.
Wynn told the regulators he expects to see a large influx of Asian gamblers with large credit lines coming to Las Vegas over the next 15 to 16 months, many of whom will be introduced to Las Vegas through Wynn Resorts' soon-to-open casino in Macau.
Board members also approved Aruze, which had several company officials at the meeting, including Chairman Kazuo Okada, without much discussion.
Last June, gaming regulators grilled representatives from the Japanese company for more than four hours about questionable matters of compliance.
On Wednesday, those same regulators complimented Aruze's management for adhering to their concerns.
Control board members also commended Wynn Resorts for its balance sheet and its financing of the Strip resort, a far cry from the licensing of The Mirage nearly 15 years ago, when much was made about estimates of the resort having to win $1 million a day from gamblers to meet its financial obligations.
Wynn said The Mirage had revenues of $408 million in its first year of operation from the casino and another $410 million in noncasino revenue.
Wynn was critical of the live entertainment tax instituted during the 2003 Legislature. He said he hoped the current legislative session would change the tax.
"Taxing the lounges the same as the showrooms is a mistake," Wynn said. "All you're going to do is take the entertainment away."
During Wynn's 20-minute presentation to control board members, he discussed the building's design, his rationale for hiding much of the property's entertainment aspects behind a man-made mountain, and how the Las Vegas customer has changed.
He gave little insight to the layout and inside attractions of Wynn Las Vegas, saying he wanted the hotel to be the centerpiece that would draw customers inside.
"Our goal was to bring people into the building and turn those tourists into guests," he said. "That is the magic."
Wynn said he hopes the building's design: a curved tower marked by bronze glass, horizontal white stripes and an asymmetrical roof, will be copied.
"A curved building has movement and that movement connotes excitement," Wynn said. "So a curved building was appropriate for Las Vegas. I didn't go out and try and outdo Bellagio. I went somewhere else, to a different idea ... Besides, what's the fun of doing the same thing twice?"
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