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Rod Smith

Gambling Beyond Nevada: Wynn Rolls Up Sleeves in Macau

10 July 2006

With Wynn Macau's opening just two months away, holding company Wynn Resorts Ltd. has discovered recruiting and training workers is not so different in China than it is in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, observers say, cultural differences pose major challenges for Wynn Resorts and any other gaming companies planning to operate in Macau.

Wynn Macau, scheduled to open in China on Sept. 5, will have 600 rooms; 100,000 square feet of gaming, with 200 table games and 350 slot machines; seven restaurants; 28,000 square feet of shops; a spa and entertainment venues.

Wynn's Chief Human Resources Officer Arte Nathan, who has helped open all of the developer's resorts since 1983, said about 90 percent of the applicants for the 5,200 jobs at Wynn Macau have been generated with an online service his company used to open Wynn Las Vegas in April 2005.

For both projects, Wynn Resorts relied on Recruit Max, a system that automates job applications and hiring for the employer and lets applicants apply from any site with Internet access. Nathan said Wynn Macau received nearly 70,000 applications through Recruit Max.

"Maybe the only difference is that here we communicated primarily via e-mail and in Macau the communications have mostly been via SMS text messaging," Nathan said.

Short message service, which permits sending text messages, is available on most digital mobile phones and other mobile devices.

Nathan said the training materials to prepare workers for Wynn Macau's opening are like the ones used in Las Vegas, except that they've been adapted for China and translated into Cantonese.

Hiring similarities notwithstanding, Nathan said there are important hiring and work differences between Las Vegas and Macau. For example, he said, although it will be possible to hire the majority of the staff from among Macau residents, he said the labor pool there is definitely "challenged by all the growth and jobs."

The Chinese government has tough immigration policies and has approved Wynn Macau to hire approximately 750 non-Macau residents, Nathan said.

"Are there differences (between Las Vegas and China)? You bet," Nathan said, "That's why nearly all of the management and staff at Wynn Macau are from that region, and experienced in working in that language and culture. We really are trying to be a Chinese company there, and not a U.S. company in China.

"We have certainly all learned a great deal throughout this process, but the good news is that we each have a Chinese counterpart there who helps us to understand what is important and how best to operate."

Unlike Wynn's Las Vegas properties past and present, the Macau resort will not be unionized.

"There are no industrial or trade unions per se in China, but there are strong governmental regulations related to employment," Nathan said.

About 145 Wynn Las Vegas employees will go to Macau to help with the opening, Nathan said. The Wynn Las Vegas workers will spend up to three weeks in Macau, Nathan said.

"Their role will not be to inculcate the Wynn Macau folks but rather to add additional eyes, ears, hands and legs to the operation so that the managers there can truly be in two places at once," he said.

Nathan said he and his team used similar tactics to open Bellagio when Wynn headed Mirage Resorts. Employees from The Mirage, Treasure Island and Golden Nugget helped with that opening, he added.

Deutsche Bank analyst Andrew Zarnett, who has just returned from an inspection tour, said mastering the staffing and training will be important for Wynn Resorts because Wynn Macau will be the company's first overseas foray.

"This will show what they can do. It's also important because it is going to be a driver for a lot of Asian visitation to Las Vegas," he said. "Wynn (Las Vegas) already has an Asian clientele, but this will let them market all that more effectively."

In terms of work force, Zarnett said developer Steve Wynn has successfully brought new levels of service to Las Vegas with the Golden Nugget, The Mirage, Treasure Island, Bellagio and Wynn Las Vegas.

"This is the same path in another market," he said. "What he is doing there is actually creating a service experience," he said. "Until Sands Macau (which was opened two years ago by Las Vegas Sands), it was nonexistent."

Still, Zarnett said Wynn Macau faces human resources challenges because workers in Macau are not used to working in hotels offering the level of service Wynn customers expect.

Brian Gordon, a partner in Las Vegas-based financial consultants Applied Analysis, said Wynn Resorts' desire to use Macau as a feeder market for Las Vegas complicates its challenge.

"Clearly, cross-promotion is one of the strategic motives and they've set the standard at other properties they'll have to match to cater to consumers in both destinations," he said. "The only question is the day-to-day consumer. They could be alienated by an unusual quality of services."

Wynn Resorts' Macau hiring won't end when the resort opens. Plans for Wynn Macau's second phase have already started and the project is expected to open up another 3,000 jobs.

Phase two is expected to include another 85,000 square feet of casino space, with 150 more table games and 500 more slots; a sports book; two restaurants, a theater; and a front-of-the-property water attraction.