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Steve Wynn won't quiet criticism

23 October 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman Steve Wynn said Monday he plans to continue speaking out on what he calls the Obama administration's mishandling of the economy.

And he believes others in the business community should be taking a similar approach.

"I feel very strongly about this, and it needs to be discussed," said Wynn, founder and chief executive officer of the company that operates Wynn Las Vegas, Encore and a casino in Macau. "I plan on speaking up every chance I get. Every businessperson ought to speak up or things are going to get much worse."

But he plans to do more than talk. Wynn said he may establish a political action organization within Wynn Resorts that will empower his Strip casino's 14,000 employees.

At Mirage Resorts, Wynn built a political arm in the 1990s that registered voters, provided campaign feedback to the company's employees, and helped favored candidates with grass-roots organizational materials.

"I'm going to get real active in the next election," Wynn said of the 2010 midterm campaign.

Two rival casino executives, MGM Mirage Chairman and CEO Jim Murren, and Harrah's Entertainment Senior Vice President Jan Jones, said they don't question Wynn's right to speak out. But they disagree with his opinion of President Barack Obama. Wynn, they said, is not expressing the universal opinion of casino operators.

"(Wynn is) very well-known and he's a provocative speaker," Murren said. "He is a celebrity and he enjoys doing that. He does not speak for the industry nor does he speak for (MGM Mirage)."

Wynn believes the president has not focused attention on job creation, and he said Monday the administration's policies will "punish" businesses.

"It's a misdirected agenda. It's socialism lite," Wynn said. "All the things being talked about do nothing toward creating jobs. Eventually, this is going to start to dawn on the American people."

In addition to Obama, Wynn was critical of Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

However, Wynn, who is a Republican, said Monday that he supports the re-election of Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

"My friend of 40 years will protect Americans from this kind of foolishness," Wynn said. "I don't believe Harry will let that happen. Remember, Harry is a conservative Democrat from Searchlight."

Wynn appeared several times last week on cable television news shows to discuss the economy. He also participated in a round-table discussion with two Midwestern governors and an economist on "Fox News Sunday" with Chris Wallace.

On Monday, Wynn clarified comments he made on the Fox show about government having never created jobs. However, he said public works jobs, such as the building of Hoover Dam in the 1930s, are not enough to bring America out of the recession. Jobs, such as those in the service sector created by the casino industry and private business, are more important than government employment programs.

"If the government hires everybody, that's communism," Wynn said. "We know that destroys initiative."

Wynn said the administration and Congress need to come up with policies that are favorable to business and that fuel capitalism and job growth, not attack it.

"These macroeconomists don't understand what happens in each community," Wynn said. "When people have a job, they feel better about themselves, buy houses, pay taxes and become consumers. People without jobs don't have consumer confidence."

Between its Strip and Macau casinos, Wynn Resorts employs 20,000 workers. The company hired 5,000 people in December when Encore opened. The sagging economy forced Wynn to make cutbacks at his two Strip resorts, although he said mass layoffs did not take place.

Wynn is fresh off an initial public offering on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that raised $1.87 billion for Wynn Resorts. The company is opening a second resort in Macau in the spring at a cost of $675 million.

Last week, Wynn completed a high-profile deal that will bring country music star Garth Brooks into Encore's showroom over the next five years.

Steve Wynn won't quiet criticism is republished from