Columnist Jeff Simpson: On Why Wynn is Smiling - Monday 6th of February 2006

p>LAS VEGAS, Nevada Steve Wynn is feeling good these days. With good news in Las Vegas and major plans in Macau, Wynn believes his company is poised for even bigger success.

I met with Wynn for a couple of hours last week, and the developer could barely contain his satisfaction with the performance of Wynn Las Vegas.

"We beat every metric in the history of Nevada," Wynn said.

One amazing number: Wynn said the property has captured about half of the Strip's baccarat market, the game favored by the world's biggest high rollers.

But the robust performance doesn't mean that the chocolate-colored resort will be standing still.

The existing Wynn Collection art gallery will be replaced by a watch store. And not just any watch store, Wynn said.

The world's first Rolex-branded store will open in the gallery's place, along with a men's accessory store.

So what happens to the art? Wynn's not sure. He considered using the masterpieces as an art component in a possible bid for a Singapore casino, but decided in late November that he just didn't have time to do justice to a Singapore project.

Already on his plate: Plans to begin building the 2,030-suite Encore resort next to Wynn Las Vegas, September's slated opening of Wynn Macau and preliminary plans to partner with a couple of major casino operators in a resort casino and shopping complex on Macau's Cotai Strip.

So Wynn said he'll probably decide over the Christmas holiday how to use his paintings. Among his options: Creating a new public space for the art at Wynn Las Vegas; moving the art to the villa at Wynn Las Vegas where he lives with his wife, Elaine; or place the art in various locations throughout the resort.

"I think having art as a component of any resort is a nice idea," Wynn said. It brings a fullness to the property. There's already art all over the hotel, besides the Wynn Collection. I'd like to go further with it."

Wynn acknowledged that there is still room for improvement in his entertainment offerings, but said he's pleased with his shows. The Le Reve production show, on its winter break until Dec. 23, will get a little more energy. "Avenue Q," he said, "has the most wonderful reaction, and we love it."

The two shows have been filling about 60 percent or 70 percent of their seats midweek, higher on weekends.

"We're going to augment and juice up Le Reve," said Wynn, who predicted the two shows would continue to draw more patrons as word of mouth sells the experiences.

"Entertainment is still the lifeblood of Las Vegas," he said. "It's the most challenging, the most difficult part of our business. Entertainment is art, and you have to front a lot of money before you see a dime like the movies. But this is the ballpark I play in. I'm glad to be here."

Wynn said one venue he wouldn't be playing in is Pennsylvania. Despite his connections to the state he's a University of Pennsylvania graduate and a longtime friend of the state's Gov. Ed Rendell Wynn won't apply to open a slot casino in the Keystone State.

Asked whether it was Pennsylvania's high tax rate or refusal to allow table games, Wynn had a simple answer: "Both. We're builders of destinations. Not slot parlors. I like to build fine places. I never built one of those slot places when I ran Mirage that's why there's no riverboats with the Golden Nugget or Mirage names on 'em."

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