Friday, Aug. 20, 2004 | 10:50 a.m.
Steve Wynn said Thursday that media reports linking him to plans to develop a tribal casino near Disneyland in Orange County, Calif., are exaggerated.
The Los Angeles Times reported earlier this week that a small San Diego County Indian band and Garden Grove, Calif., city officials talked with Wynn about developing a megaresort on city-controlled land about a mile-and-a-half away from Disneyland.
Wynn said the Orange County government officials and representatives of the Mesa Grande Band of Mission Indians visited Las Vegas about two months ago to gauge his interest in developing a destination resort with casino gambling in Garden Grove.
But no agreements were made, and Wynn said he will not get involved in trying to persuade California government officials to allow the Indian tribe to swap its remote San Diego county land for the parcel in Garden Grove.
Federal law allows tribes to make such swaps only if their existing turf is economically unproductive, and Wynn said the tribe's isolated land, accessible by dirt road, arguably would qualify.
He said the lobbying effort must be made by the tribe and local government officials.
"I will not get involved in trying to persuade governments to allow land-swaps," Wynn said. "This business in trying to finagle Indian tribes is vexing. I don't want to be involved in it."
Wynn said he believes California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger -- a personal friend -- would approve a suburban Orange County casino site only if local communities and business interests signed off on the arrangement.
Wynn said he wasn't sure whether local government officials would support a project so close to Disneyland, but said he'd understand why the Walt Disney Co., owner of the theme park, wouldn't want a destination resort just blocks away.
Wynn said the Garden Grove officials asked him to persuade Disney Chairman Michael Eisner to support the plan.
"I know Michael Eisner, and they asked me to call him," Wynn said. "I won't call him. Keep me out of it. I come in at the end."
Wynn said he'd be interested in developing a casino in a demographic sweet spot like Orange County, one of the country's wealthiest and most populous counties, but wouldn't want to operate it after it was built.