Steve Wynn – legendary Las Vegas casino developer and gambling industry icon – is taking a time-out when it comes to his views on online gambling. He’s neither strongly for it nor strongly against it, and wants to see how the neophyte legal American Internet gaming venture is going to fare before he forms a definitive opinion about it.
Meanwhile, it almost sounds like he finds it an imposition that he has to pay attention to it at all.
Staying Neutral for Now
“I just think this sort of thing has a life of its own,” Wynn noted philosophically recently. “I‘m neither a proponent nor opponent of it. I’m an observer of this process and the chairman of a publicly traded company that is required to pay attention to such things.”
The casino magnate says he’s taking a “wait-and-see” attitude about online gambling now, but sounds a bit dubious, perhaps surprisingly.
“Its status in America is very much in doubt,” Wynn claims. Wynn was speaking at the official opening of his Las Vegas Strip’s eponymously named casino hotel’s holiday floral spectacular by renowned wedding florist Preston Bailey. The display uses 110,000 flowers to create carousels in the hotel’s atrium.
“I’m not sure as I stand here where online gaming is going,” Wynn said.
Perhaps surprisingly, Wynn doesn’t entirely disagree with Las Vegas Sands CEO Sheldon Adelson’s virulent anti-online gambling stance. At least, he believes that it “resonates with a lot of people.” Adelson is pouring millions into adamantly anti-Internet gaming campaigns, and has even formed an official lobbying group called Coalition to Stop Internet Gambling, whose specific goal is to put an end once and for all to legal online gambling in America. And that’s where Wynn takes issue with Adelson’s aims.
As American as Apple Pie
“Playing poker is America, and outlawing poker is like the Volstead Act where they outlawed beer,” said Wynn. “I think it’s questionable whether Sheldon will be able to stop it, which is not to say he is wrong. I just think this sort of thing has a life of its own.”
H2 Gambling Capital – a gambling industry research group – claims that illegal Internet gambling brought in $2.6 billion in revenues last year in the U.S. alone.
Wynn says he hasn’t discounted the possibility of getting more deeply into the Internet gravy train himself, either, but he’s in no rush as yet.
“I’m not the leader of this parade,” Wynn said. “The Harrah’s … Caesar’s people are because they’ve got the World Series of Poker. I know Gary Loveman [chairman and CEO of Caesars] believes in this as strongly as Sheldon opposes it.”
Wynn Resorts is paired up with Caesars in New Jersey as an online gaming partner, so he has “put their toes in the water” and will see how it goes from there. But he says Wynn Resorts plans to “stay in the game.”
For now, Wynn says he is more focused on the potential outcome of his proposed $1.5 billion casino project in Everett, Massachusetts; he is still awaiting final regulatory approvals in what has been a long, drawn-out, and often contentious process as Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners keep finding what they perceive as “bad guys” popping up in all the contestants’ business dealings elsewhere.
On the plus side, the Everett casino was the sole winner in what was a bitter battle between pro and anti-casino forces in Eastern Massachusetts in November. Both East Boston and Milford voters shot down proposed projects that had been heavily funded by advocates, leaving Wynn Everett as the lone Eastern contender, with MGM Resorts’ Springfield, Massachusetts casino project holding up Western Mass.
One thing Wynn is sure about, however, is that without a partnership with government, online gaming cannot thrive and move forward substantially.
Speaking about his sometimes head-on relationship with those Massachusetts Gaming Commissioners to date, Wynn said, “[It] takes a partnership with a very savvy, sophisticated government [for these objectives to move forward],” Wynn noted. “You cannot do it without both parties being on the same page.”
If we’re waiting on a savvy, sophisticated government, we may be in for a long wait yet.