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May 7, 2015

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J. Patrick Coolican:

Steve Wynn much better suited to casinos than politics


Isaac Brekken/WireImage

Steve and Andrea Wynn at the grand-opening party for Mizumi at the Wynn on Thursday, June 7, 2012.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

For years now, we’ve been hearing the rich baritone carnival bark of Steve Wynn, who never misses an opportunity to attack President Barack Obama for his economic policies.

His passion on the subject is a little obscure. After all, in March 2009, about two months after Obama took office in the midst of the financial crisis, Wynn stock hit a low of $15.40. It now trades above $100, an increase of more than 500 percent.

Like many of the super wealthy, Wynn has come out of this recession largely unscathed — in 2010, the richest 1 percent took home 93 percent of all the income gains — and his taxes remain largely unchanged.

But it was Obama’s rhetoric that scared Wynn, apparently, with all his “socialist” talk about returning tax rates on the wealthy to where they were during the crazy socialist tenure of President Bill Clinton.

Politico reported that Wynn gave “millions” to Karl Rove’s super PAC to defeat Obama and the Democrats. Money well spent. But Wynn was perhaps most effective attacking Obama in interviews.

Here’s what he told my former colleague, Jon Ralston, on “Ralston Reports” just before the election: “I’m afraid of the president. I have no idea what goofy idea, what crazy, anti-business program this administration will come up with. Every business guy I know in the country is frightened of Barack Obama and the way he thinks.”

Wynn even had a powerful example. You know that empty lot where the New Frontier used to sit until it was imploded five years ago? Wynn said the owners approached him about going in with him on a deal. He would design and run it, and it would be called Wynn Plaza.

Back in 2011, on an earnings conference call reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s Howard Stutz, Wynn said he’d declined to do the deal because of the federal government’s “insatiable appetite for money.” What he’s referring to here is unclear — again, tax rates have remained stable under Obama.

More telling, however, Wynn said that he couldn’t determine the return-on-investment.

Indeed, I think we all know there are too many rooms on the Strip after the frenzy of building during the aughts. That is why Boyd’s planned Echelon project sits unfinished and why some people think the Fontainebleau might wind up in a scrap yard. Too many rooms means lower room rates, which means the projects don’t work. Obama’s not the one with the Edifice Complex who built too many rooms on the Strip. (Or did he? He is very sneaky.)

According to Fox News, Wynn claimed businesses would be “sitting on their thumbs” until Obama is out of office. Sitting on their thumbs and piling up record corporate profits, as they have since Obama’s first election.

But if that’s what he says, well, who am I to argue?

Is that what he said? Oh, well, never mind.

Last week, three days after the election, a story appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer in which Wynn said in an interview that he was proposing to build Wynn Philadelphia. Wynn told the reporter that the board of directors of Wynn Resorts signed off on the project two weeks ago, meaning before the re-election of the crazy socialist Obama.

Perhaps Wynn was duped by Karl Rove into thinking Obama would lose. Or, just as likely, all that talk about business sitting on its hands until Obama leaves offices was just that: talk.

Either way, Wynn apparently now believes there’s money to be made in an America whose president will be Obama for another four years. Not to mention he’s doing it in high-tax Philadelphia — the tax on slot machines is 55 percent there, compared with Nevada’s state gaming tax of well below 10 percent.

The lesson here is that for all the apocalyptic talk on the left and the right before the election, the country goes on much as before, with people building new things, winning and losing fortunes, raising children and caring for their parents.

The other lesson, though I doubt he’ll heed it, is that Wynn should take a breather on the politics and stick to doing what he does best: building casinos I’ll never go to.

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  1. Much like Coolican, I haven't been to a Wynn casino since the Mirage opened. And while Wynn builds classy craps castles, there's something about taking dealer tips to pay his pit supervisors that reveals a serious character flaw. Perhaps he's afraid Obama might not approve.

  2. Patrick...

    Wonderful read!

    You have so captured the essence of the abject hatred of a man by a group of people that cannot adequately explain 'WHY' in any public forum; what you would get PRIVATELY would be MOST INTERESTING, indeed! (Ala Mitt's '47% comments).

    "I'm afraid of the president. I have no idea what goofy idea, what crazy, anti-business program this administration will come up with. Every business guy I know in the country is frightened of Barack Obama and the way he thinks."

    Oh! Such poignant yet vaguely abstract 'Faux' News rhetoric!
    Like the President can, on a whim, OF HIS OWN ACCORD, implement some draconian 'anti-Steve Wynn & his merry band of one-percenters' legislation, that would IMMEDIATELY BANKRUPT Steve'o & his pals who would, under other, less onerous & threatening circumstances, be CREATING JOBS & WEALTH for a BETTER AMERICA!

    Let us be succinct...
    Steve-O' & the rest of his merry band of GAZILLIONAIRES are 'afraid' of one thing and one thing only; PAYING ONE SHEKEL MORE in TAXES.
    It might infringe on his/their ability to pillage & plunder their way to yet ANOTHER Gazillion dollars.

    Meanwhile, here in the 'real world', the unwashed masses don't even appear on the Wynn radar...being mere minnows & chum in his sea of whales.

  3. Bradley Chapline,

    Your missing the point of the article.

    Steve Wynn is "the" leader in gaming...Period!

    Steve Wynn is not a politician. He is a casino operations and marketing genius. Not a politician.

    Many of us would like to see the Steve Wynn from the days of the Mirage and Bellagio. Of course, some of the largest stockholders at that time were not happy with Mr. Wynn. As an employer and casino operator, Las Vegas would not have come this far so quickly in quality offering and name recognition.

    Years ago, a casino operator at Mr. Wynn's level would never take to the airwave and tell everyone what he was thinking. Because it's Steve Wynn doing the talking we all turned said things like, "oh, that just Steve." Steve Wynn said things like threaten to move his corporate office to China. And the other stuff he said to Jon Ralston and on Foxnews. Then Mr. Wynn publicly backs a flawed and failed Republican Presidential campaign. Him and Sheldon Adelson. Las Vegas is not used to Steve Wynn failing at anything! But lately, Mr. Wynn has had many missteps.

    Politics is different outside the casino environment, Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson are not good at politics on the National level. We all would like to see Mr. Wynn back on airwaves promoting his Las Vegas casinos. Politics is the one game Steve Wynn cannot win.

    An old friend once said, "You are the best driver, when you stay in your lane."

  4. Enjoyed the article, Mr. Coolican.

    Not only the casino owners here in Las Vegas, but the general corporatocracy of America, all have a tendency to do one thing when they speak about President Obama.

    And that is that the ones who are opposed to him pretend like it's personal. Or he is bad for America. Or he doesn't like Israel. Or something else.

    But every single one of them DOES NOT point at the main reason why they dislike him.

    It's because he is not extending the Former President George W. Bush Jr. Tax Cuts For The Rich, The Filthy Rich, And the Obscenely Rich.

    This drives their hate.

    It's always the elephant in the room that is left unsaid.

    They have been weened on corporate welfare so long that they whine and cry like little girls at the very thought of it being taken away.

    Get used to it, Mr. Wynn. Cough up your fair share of taxes. The American people have spoken and there is no more gaming the system crap. No more of this one foot on the train, one foot on the platform garbage. No more playing the system against itself. Get onboard, Mr. Wynn. We got a country to fix here. And whether you like it or not, you are a part of it.

  5. Idiot column. You just hate Wynn's politics, so he should shut up.

    How about this---I hate your politics, you should shut up.

    How's that for perfect logic? Shut your paper down, you are better at lining lining bird cages than you are at talking politics.

  6. Pointing out blatant lies and hypocrisy is a journalist's job. Great job Mr. Coolican.

    I can think of many successful businessmen sitting in prison. Bernie Madoff comes to mind when thinking of Steve Wynn. I guess in Bradley's mind they should be left alone to bribe, cheat, and skim.

  7. Yeah Coolican, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man.

  8. Mr. Cool. you've done a good job of getting the people to talk and exchange their opinions. This, folks is what a good Writer does, he evokes conversation, both for and against.
    As for business leaders in Politics. It just doesn't work. I've worked in Government for over 35 years now, and almost everytime a successful businessperson get into politics they fail. The biggest reason, is the other elected officials he has to engage with. Each side has ego's the other has to work with. As a result failure!!!!

  9. Mr. Chapline,

    The world of gaming is quit different. Steve Wynn, as a private citizen, yes, be out front. As a major casino owner, no, you run silent as all smart casino do. Promote your property, promote the city.

    Openly involved in politics, on the National Level not good! The country has a different view of Las Vegas casino owners because of Steve Wynn and Sheldon Adelson.

    Here's an example, reality! Domestic Casino expansion will be hard for Wynn and Adelson. Why? Local and State officials in other areas will measure if Wynn or Adelson will back candidates or causes that will hurt or change elections. We know both Wynn and Adelson backed Mitt Romney. Wynn publicly bashed President Obama. Politically Wynn will have to pay extra to expand in the domestic market. So will Adelson. In short, Democratic who hold powers in states that support gaming will not receive either Wynn of Adelson well. It will cost them more in all areas.

    In addition, it is what Steve Wynn is saying in public and politically. Not good for the industry. Basically, that is what Cooligan is pointing out.

  10. Coolican is an opinion columnist. Take your righteous indignation elsewhere. Don't like it? Stop reading it.

  11. Another uninformed voice from one who has never created a job, just cashed the paychecks afforded to them by others who took the risks and got the rewards.

    If you only could see the light from your dark little hole of hatred and anger... But as more taxes pile up and more jobs are cut or sent overseas to pay for your man's programs and bailout, you may one day see he was/is right...

    Probably about the time you are handed the pink slip and told "we can't afford you anymore because of the new taxes" and you join the new food stamp economy

  12. Chaplin - You made Coolican's point.

    "Mr. Wynn ....he not only survived the "Great Recession", he succeeded in the midst of it all."

    Wynn has thrived despite all the political doom and gloom rhetoric he has spewed.

    Coolican is entirely correct - stick to what you are good at. Wynn should shy away from the Charlatan tactics common with his counterpart Trump.

    Wynn should have more class. Stick to what you are good at Wynn - politics isn't your game.

  13. Author, your pro-Obama bias betrays you. Before the next four years are over, a crumbling U.S. economy under His direction will change your mind.

  14. Good article--Mr. Wynn is a genius businessperson, but he was so out of his league in attempting to discuss politics, that it was embarrassing. Mr. Adelson also donated a lot of his money to the doomed Republican cause, but for the most part, kept his mouth shut, and just let his money do the talking for him.

  15. The only principle that Wynn seems to adhere to is trying to make more money. With the election behind, he must ignore his own earlier comments, gratuitous at best, in order to continue.

  16. Talking about guys who don't have a clue what they are talking about....

    I just watched an interview on CNN with Heck, who was trying to say Rice was unqualified for a position that is opening up. But the way he explained it, he confused Soledad O'Brien so much she had to get help from a panel of others around her. The end result was Heck confused not only her and the panel, but everyone out here in the viewing public too.

    Getting him on there and asking him a serious question was pretty much the same as asking a rhesus monkey to explain quantum physics.

    I'm so glad I'm no longer in his Congressional District....

  17. Wynn an Adelson are like Laurel and Hardy. Adelson contributed close to $50 million to Romney, yet his wealth has gone up more than any other American over the last several years.

    Steve Wynn never misses a chance to attack Obama or complain about taxes. Yet he recently purchased two apartments in Manhattan worth a combined $100 million. In addition he purchased one of the world's largest yachts and my understanding is that it is anchored in France someplace. Last time I checked taxes in New York and France were pretty darn high.

    In general corporate profits have been stellar under Obama and corporations are now sitting on more cash than at any time in the history of America.

    The hypocrisy is unbelievable!

  18. J. Patrick Coolican gave his opinion here and he was paid for it.

    Mr. Wynn and Mr. Adelson gave their opinions and put their money where their mouths were during the election.

    All of us posting and giving opinions here are not paid to do so. Most did not put up any money and none of us are more qualified than the three mentioned above to state what they can say or do in this country.

    That is the great thing about our Great Country. No matter if you are paid for your opinion or not, you get to voice it. Rich and poor alike. You don't even have to have a clue what you are talking about! ;-)

  19. With all the bru ha ha about corporate America's reaction to the re-election of President Obama, and the Affordable Care Act specifically, I'd LOVE to know how American companies participate in the health care structure of other countries in which they do business. If the CEO of Papa Johns Pizza can threaten the livelihoods of his workers here at home, how do they corporately operate in the health care systems in Canada & Great Britain? According to their website they do business there. How do Sheldon Addleson and Steve Wynn manage the health care of their employees in those casinos they run in China? After spending millions upon millions of dollars to defeat President Obama, mostly using ObamaCare to bludgeon him with, I really AM curious. Genuinely so. Why do Americans get the short end of the corporate stick...when these American companies operate in countries that offer comprehensive health care? Are they exempt? Do they pay nothing? Do they pay a lot? Just asking.

  20. The United States and Mexico are the only two countries that have a for profit universal healthcare system. In the United States the model is employer-based. Companies doing business in Canada and Great Britain don't have to worry about it. MGM Mirage pays $440 million a year to insure its 40,000 workers. They don't have to provide healthcare for workers they employ outside the United States.

  21. Yes, taxes remain largely unchanged, for now. But we have this HUGE deficit to deal with and if the leaders of our country do not want to destroy us they need to reverse it. That means raising taxes and cutting expenses. President Obama is promising that he can spend more without raising taxes, I don't understand how that works.

  22. While watching an interview John Ralston had with Steve Wynn I was very surprised that Wynn was clueless in many areas. Some of his answers were just flat out wrong.

  23. The fleas are out to bother the elephant again. Most of the leftists posting haven't a clue as to how business works and never put up a dime of their own to establish a viable business. Remember, lefties, Wynn always signed long term contracts with the Culinary and never fought them. He's no enemy of workers, having created more jobs at the Mirage alone than Osama Obama ever did in his lifetime. As for Coolican. He's about as bright as a 10-watt bulb if he thinks he can take on Steve Wynn and come out standing. He ought to take a look at the experience of John L. Smith to find out what can happen. Wynn does not suffer fools and Smith was a fool. Wynn put Smith into bankruptcy. So much for smarmy critics such as Ralston, Smith & Coolican! They deserve what they get when the try to duke it out with the BIG BOYS!

  24. Mr. Wynn like all of us has a right to express his opinion and support the the party of his choice.What makes any of us think that what we say or write is correct and believed by all who listen or read.One persons opinion is not the gospel.It is what it is. A persons own personal opinion, and we all have one.

  25. Steve has not been the same since he divorced from Elaine. She must have been a good influence on him. Karl Rove is a champion of the rich, and is not interested in those that are not. Too many of the Executive class are only interested any squeezing more out of the working class, without sharing the fruits of the labor.

  26. STOP HATING CARNIVAL BARKERS. Continue to call out people for their deviousness and deceit.

  27. Mr. Weinberg sees no problem with paying a 55% tax on revenue to the citizens of Pennsylvania, but screams bloody murder and threatens legislators if they even think about raising the same tax in Nevada above the current limit of about 6.4%. Next time I see former President Clinton, the Secretary of Explaining Stuff, I'll ask him to 'splain me that. The strangest part of this story is that the citizens of Nevada who gamble continue to patronize his establishments. We need to replace legislators who don't represent the best interest of the voters. But, then again, when you live in a state whose rabid obsession it is to rid itself of Senator Reid, who is largely responsible for much of the good that has "trickled down" to Nevada in the last 20 years, what else is to be expected?

  28. BHO and Harry Reid scare me much more that Steve Wynn.