Casino king Wynn open to joint venture with Packer

Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn yesterday revealed that he might pursue business partnerships with James Packer in Las Vegas and Asia.

„I like James Packer and I like Lawrence Ho,“ he said. „I consider them both friends and I think they are very bright men, and considering their age and the position they’re in, I think they represent the next generation of developers that may bring imagination and style to this whacky business we’re in.“

In an exclusive interview with The Australian from Macau, Mr Wynn said „there’s always a chance“ he could partner up with Mr Packer and Mr Ho in Las Vegas. But he said nothing was happening at the moment.

„I think that they would be perfectly capable of entering the Las Vegas market. There’s nothing like experience, but they’re gaining it rapidly. We’re talking about these two young men who are going to be full-on Asian gaming operators.“

Mr Wynn said he did not believe the US gaming inquiry into Pansy Ho – sister of Lawrence Ho – would cause problems for Mr Packer’s mooted push into Las Vegas.

Ms Ho is being investigated by the Nevada and New Jersey gaming regulators, reportedly over her suitability to partner with US casino operator MGM Mirage in Macau.

„I will make a prediction for you: the Pansy Ho inquiry will result in her not being an issue with her partners.“

Mr Packer’s PBL this week finalised the sale of half of its media assets to CVC Asia Pacific for AUD 4.5 billion. The proceeds are expected to be used to buy gaming assets.

PBL and Melco recently floated their joint venture vehicle, Melco PBL, on the New York Stock Exchange to help fund casino ventures in Asia.

Mr Wynn said he might look at joint venture opportunities in Asia with Mr Packer.

„Depending on business opportunities and what skills we need to bring to the table, it may be appropriate for us to act jointly, but again, that will depend upon the situations that we haven’t discussed yet.“ Mr Wynn, who developed and sold the famous Bellagio Casino Hotel (to MGM), helped revive the Las Vegas strip.

Wynn Resorts now includes the flagship casino Wynn Las Vegas and it holds one of six casino licences in Macau. He sold a sub-commission licence to Melco PBL in 2006 for USD 900 million, allowing Mr Packer and Mr Ho to run their own casinos.

Mr Wynn said his immediate focus was on China, Macau and Las Vegas.

As for Australia, he said „everybody looks at everything. I participated in the Melbourne competition and was beat out by Lloyd William“.

But he did not rule out having another look. „It would depend upon the circumstances,“ he said.

As for Richard Branson’s proposed push into Macau, Mr Wynn said: „There are no more licences in Macau. Anybody that wants to come in here now would have to be in a joint-venture with one of us. I don’t know who Richard has been talking to. It wasn’t me, so far.“