Businessman Steve Wynn has been active in the casino and resort development in Las Vegas and beyond for more than 45 years. Best known for his key role in the revitalization of the Las Vegas Strip in the 1990s, Wynn is the entrepreneurial figure behind many of the city’s most distinctive resorts, including Bellagio, Mirage, Treasure Island and Wynn Las Vegas.
Born in Connecticut and raised in New York, Stephen A. Wynn got his start in the casino industry in 1963, following the passing of his father Michael, who owned a number of bingo parlors in the eastern United States. After his graduation from the University of Pennsylvania that same year, Steve Wynn took over the operation of the family bingo parlors in Maryland. In 1967, Wynn moved to Las Vegas becoming part owner, slot manager and assistant credit manager of the Frontier Hotel. Between 1968 and 1972 he also owned and operated a wine and liquor importing company. In 1971, an entrepreneurial real estate transaction with Howard Hughes produced sufficient profits for a major investment in the landmark Golden Nugget Casino. Wynn transformed the Golden Nugget into a AAA Four-Diamond resort known for elegance and personal service. By 1973, at the age of 31, Mr. Wynn controlled the property and used profits from the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas to build the 506-room Golden Nugget Hotel & Casino on the Boardwalk in Atlantic City. The resort became known for its elegant facilities, television ads featuring Frank Sinatra and its impressive lineup of superstar entertainment.
A string of other resorts followed in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s, not only cementing Wynn’s reputation as a leading developer and a major player on the Las Vegas scene, but also revamping Las Vegas’ worldwide image as a premier destination for luxury tourism. Opening in 1989, the Mirage was Wynn’s first major casino on the Strip, followed by Treasure Island in 1993 and the Bellagio in 1998. At the time of its completion, the Bellagio was the most expensive hotel in the world and is still considered among the most spectacular. In 1999, Wynn began to explore projects outside of Las Vegas with the development of the Beau Rivage resort in Biloxi, Mississippi.
Established in 2000, Wynn Resorts, Limited, became a publicly traded company in 2002. Since that time, Steve Wynn has launched a number of new resorts in Las Vegas, as well as landmark developments in Macau, the world’s largest gaming market since 2006, with Wynn and Encore Macau, and Wynn Palace Cotai. His most recent project is Wynn Everett, a proposed casino in the Massachusetts city of Everett, located near downtown Boston, for which he was awarded a development license in September 2014. In November 2014, as a testament to his exceptional career, Steve Wynn was ranked 17th out of the world’s 100 best-performing CEOs by Harvard Business Review.
In addition to his work in hospitality, Steve Wynn is well known for his fine art collection. Many of these pieces are on display at Wynn Las Vegas, and several pieces from his collection appeared in the 2008 film Monet’s Palate. Many of the pieces, including Jeff Koons’ $28.2 million “Popeye” sculpture, are on public display throughout Wynn resorts around the world.
Committed to supporting the communities in which he has built his resorts and casinos, Steve Wynn donates to a variety of institutions. In 2012, he pledged to donate $135 million to the University of Macau Development Foundation over the course of 12 years. The pledge raised some concerns with Wynn’s former business partner, Kazuo Okada, who questioned the propriety of such a large gift made with corporate funds. An informal SEC inquiry was conducted. In July 2013, the SEC concluded its investigation, clearing the company and announcing that no further action needed to be taken. No further communication from the U.S. Department of Justice on the matter was received to indicate there was any ongoing investigation. In light of the closure of the investigations by the SEC and the Nevada Gaming Control Board, both Wynn and the company were determined to be exonerated.
In 2014, Steve Wynn sat down with Peter Robinson of the Hoover Institution for an interview. In the interview, Wynn discusses his early career, how he came to Las Vegas, and how he built his empire. Wynn details how he fell in love with the city while on a belated honeymoon with his wife and how a string of good fortune led him to purchase a small share in the Frontier Hotel and Casino. He emphasized his good luck and solid business ethic, pointing to his time at the Frontier, when suspicions of a connection to the Detroit mob arose. In that case, Wynn’s actions thwarted the mob’s efforts to stop the sale of the Frontier to Howard Hughes, a fact made clear in a statement written by the U.S. attorney at the time. The information clearing Wynn of any mob connections resulted in a public apology in the UK’s “Daily Mail Online” on January 21, 2013. Wynn went on to talk about the expansion of Wynn Resorts, his respect for and appreciation of his employees, and his belief that Wynn Las Vegas is one of the top three hotels in the world.