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May 25, 2015

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Wynn Resorts keeps eye on luxury market through restructuring

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Marilyn Winn

When Wynn Resorts hired Marilyn Winn in November to replace Andrew Pascal as president of the company's Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts, some industry experts wondered whether her arrival marked a cultural shift for a company that caters to well-to-do travelers with two of the Strip’s poshest resorts.

Winn, one of only three female casino presidents on the Strip, previously ran the Bally's, Paris Las Vegas and Planet Hollywood resorts for Caesars Entertainment, formerly known as Harrah’s Entertainment.

More significantly, Winn’s prior employer has been called the Wal-Mart of the casino industry for assembling the largest chain of casinos nationwide and for pioneering formula-driven technology to market to a largely middle-class audience of slot machine gamblers.

But Winn, who worked in upper management at Caesars for 22 years, said she has no intention of watering down Wynn’s high-end brand or adopting Caesars’ marketing playbook.

“Taking what Harrah’s has done and installing it here wouldn’t work. We don’t have a (nationwide) network of casinos," she said. "We are absolutely focused on the luxury market.”

Winn is restructuring the upscale casino company somewhat, however, by adding an executive-level marketing position and removing one of two chief operating officer jobs in Las Vegas -- the position recently held by Robert Oseland at Encore. Winn said she asked Oseland to stay on with the company, but he chose to leave.

Three other managers, all lower-ranking, left the company in the wake of the restructuring, which is intended to change titles and job duties rather than save money by eliminating positions, she said.

“We’ve asked people to perform some other functions ... after taking a look at the functions we need,” she said.

Former Caesars vice president of marketing Michael Weaver began work this week as senior vice president of marketing strategy for Wynn Resorts, a new position that will include many forms of marketing, including corporate branding and casino promotions.

Wynn Resorts has so far avoided the more drastic downsizing of some of its peers and is performing better than most in spite of flagging profits in Las Vegas. The company's debts are relatively small and most of its earnings are generated in Macau, which is booming along with the Chinese economy.

The company opened a second casino resort in China, Encore at Wynn Macau, in April and is developing a third there.

Wynn Resorts was also one of the last of the Strip giants to lay off employees. The company cut more than 250 rank-and-file workers last summer as part of a move to restore part-time employees to full-time status.

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