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October 5, 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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