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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson

Jeff Simpson on why casino chief Steve Wynn reserves the right to change his mind

11 December 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Changing one's mind is sometimes portrayed as a sign of weakness - ask John Kerry or any other political candidate who has been hammered as a flip-flopper.

While the criticism often works in political sound bites, successful business leaders don't shy away from changing their minds when circumstances change or perspectives evolve.

In a recent interview with Steve Wynn, the resort developer discussed two plans he has changed his mind on - one for the third time.

When Wynn first told me three years ago about his plans to develop more resorts in Macau after Wynn Macau opened, he said he thought that he would pursue joint ventures with other casino operators.

The joint ventures would leverage his Macau casino concession to raise capital from other casino companies to build jointly owned resorts. The move would have allowed Wynn Resorts to conserve its own funds yet share in the profit from additional properties.

Almost a year later, in December 2004, Macau casino results were so strong that he told me he had changed his mind.

"Why would you want to share?" Wynn said at the time. "I don't want to own the town. I just want to own the best two or three places."

By December 2005, Wynn had changed his mind again.

Wynn said he would be interested in partnering with companies such as Harrah's Entertainment, Kerzner International and Station Casinos, citing joint ventures he had engineered years earlier that resulted in the Monte Carlo and Atlantic City's Borgata.

"My approach is simple," Wynn said then. "I think it would be good to have a Caesars Palace or a Butch Kerzner (the recently deceased executive who at the time was chief executive of Kerzner International) or a Station Casinos join with us on a joint-venture basis."

In my most recent interview, Wynn said he has abandoned the joint-venture idea - although I wouldn't bet the ranch that the decision will stick.

Wynn Macau is open and doing exceptionally well, he's building Wynn Diamond Suites next to the property, and he has already acquired 52 acres on the Cotai Strip for future resort development.

"The idea of splitting and subdividing 52 acres doesn't appeal to me," Wynn said.

Wynn has also changed directions when it comes to the signature attraction of his Encore resort, under construction just north of Wynn Las Vegas.

He had originally planned to have a retractable glass roof cover the pool and pool-side nightclub and restaurant, allowing use during inclement weather.

The pool area and its interface with the resort will remain the property's trademark attraction, what Wynn called its "volcano," but there won't be a retractable roof. Instead he will use short-space heaters during cold weather and misters when it's hot.

Behind the decision to abandon the retractable roof was a trip Wynn, architect DeRuyter Butler and design guru Roger Thomas took to visit the Gaylord Opryland resort in Nashville, Tenn., which has giant glass-roofed atriums.

"I went and walked it, and never, ever was I not aware of that roof," Wynn said. "I gave up the idea of using a glass roof at Encore. I want openness."