Steve Wynn: Casino mogul moves on Macau

Steve Wynn is a man who not only makes the preposterous possible, but also profitable.

The casino mogul and billionaire turned Las Vegas from a strip of gambling dens into a global attraction, helping to foster the Vegas ideal that it is a place consenting adults can see and do just about anything imaginable (plus, of course, gamble 24-hours a day).

If that happens to include watching erupting volcanoes and full-size pirate ship battles, then you can thank Steve Wynn personally; he opened The Mirage, complete with 50-feet-tall volcano, in 1989 and Treasure Island four years later. The Bellagio followed in 1998 with an indoor lake, dancing fountains, high-end boutiques and an art gallery.

A keen art collector himself, Wynn owns one of only 39 Vermeer paintings and hangs it in his office.

Glitz, opulence and priceless pieces of art, however, are a long way from where Wynn began.

He was 20 when he inherited the family bingo parlor business in Maryland. But it was an encounter with Frank Sinatra in Las Vegas that made him want to move to the desert.

Invited to a private performance by the late singer, Wynn recalls in his interview with Anjali Rao: „There they were, eight feet away and full of it. There was no comparable thing today about the glamour of that. And at that moment, I was hooked. I wanted to be a part of the Las Vegas scene.“

He finally moved there with wife Elaine in 1967, starting out as an executive and part owner of the Frontier Hotel.

It was after some shrewd moves in the property market — including selling on a lot bought from billionaire recluse Howard Hughes for USD 1 million profit — that seven years later he became part of the scene at the age of 32 when be bought the Golden Nugget.

After becoming the youngest casino owner in the U.S. and pioneering the big and brash revival Las Vegas in the late 1980’s, he has been quick to change tack with his latest generation of mega-casinos where it’s less about things to see and more about an experience – natural light, of all things, is a prominent feature, in the Wynn Las Vegas that opened in 2005.

It’s still on a grand scale, like the Wynn Macau his latest venture, which is set to be followed by two more casinos in the former-Portuguese colony. Wynn hopes his Asian flagship will tap into China and the regions expanding middle classes.

„The pent-up demand for the good life in China is extraordinary,“ he told Anjali Rao.