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With Wynn Out, What Now For The Company He Founded?

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Associated Press

Shockwaves from Steve Wynn’s resignation as CEO of Wynn Resorts will likely be felt in his company, both in future plans and maybe on the casino floor.

John L. Smith, a longtime Las Vegas contributor and a contributor to Nevada Public Radio, said Wynn’s resignation may lead to changes in the way employees work together. And not just in Wynn Resort properties, but throughout the gaming industry.

“The best thing that can happen to Las Vegas is some sunshine,” he said, “That means sunshine in the corporate offices at the top.”

Smith said that wage earners in the casino industry follow strict rules and are treated like “hired help.” He also said that if they make a mistake “they’re out the door.” 

“People can talk about how what a family it all is but the fact is there have been two sets of rules for a long time,” he said. “And that needs to end.”

Smith said in an odd way Steve Wynn’s biggest contribution to the community may be “blowing open a door and bringing in a little light.” The long-time observer of Las Vegas believes this is an opportunity for Las Vegas to change but there is no guarantee that it will.

On the heels of the announcement of Steve Wynn’s resignation, the Wynn board announced his replacement would be Matt Maddox.

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Chris Sieroty is the national editor for Gaming Compliance. He said Maddox has been around the Wynn organization for years and was made the president of the company five years ago.

 

“He’s the one that the board and Steve Wynn have the confidence in to move the company forward and it seems Wall Street does too because analysts like the hire,” Sieroty said.

The stock price for Wynn Resorts took a tumble after the allegations were first published in the Wall Street Journal, but they rebounded slightly Wednesday morning. Sieroty said it is still unclear whether Maddox will be named the permanent replacement or just remain temporary it really depends on how the company does going forward.

Wynn Resorts is planning a massive new project behind its property on the Las Vegas Strip, in addition to a resort in Massachusetts. Sieroty believes both projects will move forward.  

He added that Wynn Resorts is in good fiscal health and employees should not be worried about their positions. 

Another important part of the case that will continue, despite Wynn’s departure, will be investigations into the allegations by the Nevada Gaming Control Board and gaming regulators in Massachusetts. 

“Because what they’re concerned about is any alleged conduct by the board or other individuals in the company that knew about the allegations against Wynn and they took steps to cover it up,” Sieroty said.

Meanwhile, a group of Wynn Resorts shareholders have filed a lawsuit against the company through Las Vegas attorney Robert Eglet.

“It is alleged that the board members knew about this and they failed to live up their fiduciary duties as board members to the company and the company shareholders,” Eglet told State of Nevada.

Smith and his publisher, Barricade Books, were sued in the 1990s related to Smith’s book about Wynn, “Running Scared.”

Smith lamented the fact that in 1998, the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where he was a columnist, did not go ahead with printing a court story about sexual misconduct allegations against Wynn. Smith said he thinks that had that story been printed, it might have helped his case.

“It would have kind of broken the spell that people had at the time,” Smith told KNPR’s State of Nevada.

But will Wynn’s departure be a blow for the company that he spent a lifetime building, as analysts have predicted?

Peter Earley wrote about Wynn and his efforts to change Las Vegas in his 2000 book, “Super Casino.” 

Beyond Wynn’s reputation a tough negotiator and a perfectionist when it came to his casinos, Steve Wynn is a “visionary” who changed the city, according to Earley.

“You can go back to Jay Sarno’s days and say he came up with Circus Circus, but Wynn was the one who really came up with the entertainment architecture, turning casinos into experiences.”

Earley said the company has been so successful that it will probably continue doing well without him.

 

And while Wynn changed much of the physical structure of the Las Vegas Strip, his part in the #metoo movement may change the gaming industry.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani told State of Nevada that the Culinary Union, the bartenders union and other groups that represent workers along the Strip will have now be taking a closer look at their policies regarding sexual harassment training and reporting.

“You really have to look at how people are in control and how they use that power,” she said, “If that power is used to bully to intimidate to threaten and/or lead to discrimination, harassment or sexual harassment that is an outcome, where does it start?”

She said the goal should be that no one ever is in a situation where they have to fight back against harassment or discrimination.

Giunchigliani’s thoughts on the matter were echoed by an anonymous caller who said she had worked for Steve Wynn on the corporate level. She said people don’t understand the power structure that surrounded him and other wealthy, powerful men like him. 

“No one understands how the people surrounding him will do anything to earn his favor,” she said, “I was shocked and amazed that everyone he interacts with will bend over backward to earn his favor.”

(Editor's note: This discussion originally aired Feb. 7, 2018)

Guests

Chris Sieroty, National Editor, Gambling Compliance; John L. Smith, KNPR Contributor; Pete Earley, author of "Super Casino: Inside the 'New' Las Vegas."

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