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Wynn discusses family, economy in '60 Minutes' interview

13 April 2009

Las Vegas Sun

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Casino mogul Steve Wynn gave Americans a look into his life and work Sunday night during a "60 Minutes" interview with Charlie Rose.

Rose referred to Wynn as "the man with the Midas touch who added glamour to the gambling industry," crediting Wynn as the casino operator who turned Las Vegas into an international tourist destination.

Wynn said he can't take all the credit. When he started building his first luxury resort, The Mirage, in the 1980s, nothing of its kind existed.

"If you look at Las Vegas in the 1980s, there hadn't been anything new since 1973. And so the city was in a time warp and as has so often been the case, in the valley of the blind, the one-eyed man is king," Wynn said.

Wynn said his first visit to Las Vegas was at the age of 10 with his father, Michael Wynn, who owned a string of bingo parlors. The year was 1952 and Nevada was the only state to have legalized gambling.

His father was a compulsive gambler, Wynn told Rose. Wynn said he entered the casino business ironically and accidentally.

After moving to Las Vegas in 1967 with wife Elaine, Wynn invested in the Golden Nugget and paid off the $350,000 debt his father left the family when he died.

"I would give anything for a half hour or 15 minutes with my father to walk him through anything that good fortune has allowed to come my way these past 40 years," Wynn said.

The famous name on the side of his resort is not the name he was given at birth, Wynn told Rose. He was born Stephen Weinberg and became Wynn when his father changed their last name several months after he was born.

While casino operators like MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands have been criticized for expanding and opening casinos in the current economic climate, Wynn explained his reasoning for opening his $2.3 billion Encore Las Vegas in December 2008.

"I'll tell you right now: If I had any idea, I wouldn't have if I had a choice. But this project started four years ago. These things have a huge lead time," Wynn said.

Elaine Wynn, Wynn's wife of 41 years, explained to Rose the reasons for Wynn's success. Although the two have filed for divorce, Elaine Wynn remains on the board of directors of Wynn Resorts.

"He brings a businessman's intelligence and awareness of what it takes to make a property successful, and yet he can put that on a side shelf and go crazy, making the most extraordinary environments. He understands innately what the public will respond to," she said.

Wynn also discussed his diminishing vision as he held on to Rose's arm while the two toured the Encore Las Vegas resort. Wynn has suffered from the genetic eye condition retinitis pigmentosa since he was a child and lacks peripheral vision.

Despite the disease, Wynn spends a large amount of time on the intricate details of his resorts.

"Are you satisfied with the way the light is hitting our flowers?" Wynn asked a staff member during the interview.

Wynn said those kinds of details bring him the greatest joy in life.

"I can't help myself. It's a sickness," Wynn joked. "My doctor says if I take my medication I'm no danger to anybody but myself. I can't help it."

After more than 40 years in the industry, Wynn said he is still driven by a single goal.

"To see if I could make people go 'wow,'" Wynn said. "To see if I could create a place that was a wonderland, that it was better than the outside world."

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Wynn discusses family, economy in '60 Minutes' interview is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.