Casino Mogul Steve Wynn - He Changed the Face of Las Vegas

Casino Mogul Steve Wynn - He Changed the Face of Las Vegas

An art collection so magnificent it would impress the Royal Family. The latest piece a statue of Popeye the Sailor Man created by Jeff Koons bought at auction in the spring of 2014 for a cool $28.2 million. One of only three, the 2,000 pound sculpture is in full public view under the watchful eye of two security guards. In less than a year’s time an offer to buy the art piece for $60 million, doubling a handsome profit was turned down by the owner.

The collection includes works from renowned artists like Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Dale Chihuly and Andy Warhol. Picasso’s Le Reve was the showpiece taking center of attention when purchased in 2001. Ready to sell it in 2006 for $139 million it would be the highest paid price for an art piece. However while showing the painting to a group of guests the owner accidentally ripped the canvas. After 90,000 in repairs it was sold in 2013 for a staggering $155 million to the same perspective buyer.

Who is the man with such expensive taste in the position to amass such an enormous collection? None other than the unprecedented Steve Wynn, that’s who.

A Future Prodigy is Born

On January 27th 1942 Stephen Alan Weinberg was born in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1946 his father Michael changed their last name from Weinberg to Wynn. The reason was to protect the family from anti-Jewish discrimination. Raised in Utica, New York he graduated in 1959 from the private boys school Manilus in Syracuse. Attending the University of Pennsylvania, Steve was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu fraternity where he majored in anthropology and English literature.

His father Michael operated bingo parlors across the eastern United States. In 1963 after open heart surgery in Minneapolis he passed away due to complications. He left behind $350,000 in gaming debts. His son took over the family bingo business in Maryland.

Entering the Casino Market

After turning his father’s bingo operation into a profitable business Wynn realizes it is more than selling bingo “It was making the bingo a social recreational experience.”


Proving to be an accomplished business man in the bingo industry Wynn decides to venture out further in the gambling industry. He makes a small investment in the Frontier Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. After moving to Vegas with his wife Elaine he becomes proprietor of a wine import company from 1968 to 1972. His big break comes in 1971 after gaining controlling interest in the Golden Nugget Casino in downtown Las Vegas. Once considered a mediocre gambling hall, Wynn transforms the Nugget into a lavish Casino and hotel attracting a ritzy customer base.

Wynn Reinvents Las Vegas

Wynn - “It was my growing feeling that Las Vegas had a terrible kind of sameness to it. Boxes of rooms on top of rooms filled with slot machines. I’m not a gambler. I wouldn’t go across the street to shoot dice except as a lark maybe twice a year. But I’d go regularly to see a wonderment or a new attraction. So would you.”

The Mirage was the first major Casino on the Strip Wynn opened in November 1989. It changed the entire complexion of Vegas by featuring a magnificent South Seas theme and a volcano that erupts. A project in which he was involved in, the design and construction cost $630 million to build. It was a chancy business venture that paid off and as a result Wynn is considered the main part of Las Vegas history. Casinos now competed for sensational themes that would attract tourism including not just gamblers but entire families. This catapulted a landscape on the Strip that would launch a $12 billion building explosion. In 1991 Mirage Resorts Incorporated replaced the name Golden Nugget incorporated.

Treasure Island was the second Casino Wynn built on the site where the north parking lot of the Mirage existed. The cost of the construction was $450 million and opened in October 1993. Features included pirate ships, the Battle of Buccaneer Bay, cannon fire, high dives and home of the Cirque du Soleil show.

The Bellagio opens in 1998 at the tune of $1.6 billion and was considered one of the most opulent and expensive hotels in the world. The name was inspired after Wynn visited Italy.It quickly gained notoriety for the Fountains of Bellagio featuring the dancing water choreographed to music, drawing a magnificent crowd on the sidewalk with a show every 15 minutes.

Wynn - “This is a business that thrives on competition. For 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the strip hosts the most violent competition in business in America.”

It was after the prestigious Bellagio that new luxurious developments on the Strip began to surface including Casinos like Paris Las Vegas inspired by the romance of Paris France, The Venetian with imported Italian tile and marble and Mandalay Bay featuring a man-made beach.

In 2005 the most expensive resort The Wynn Las Vegas opened where the Desert Inn formerly stood. The Encore Las Vegas shared the same property with Wynn Las Vegas but is a completely separate hotel.

Expanding Beyond the Desert

With a new vision Wynn sets his sights in Biloxi, Mississippi in 1999. Construction begins on the Beau Rivage, a name that was originally slated for Bellagio. It was a hot spot for tourism along the Gulf Coast.

In 2002 Mirage Resorts was sold for $6.6 billion to MGM Grand Inc. At the same time Wynn purchases the Desert Inn for $270 million and Wynn Resorts Limited is public. By 2004 Wynn has a net worth valued at $1.3 billion.


Wynn – “In Macau, the average player at the table will lose twenty-five dollars an hour. The dealer makes less than twenty-five dollars a day.”

Reaching for the biggest gambling market in the world it was only a matter of time he would bid for a gambling concession. Wynn Macau opened their doors to the public on September 5, 2006. It became one of only 5 Asian hotels to receive the Mobil Five Star award. By 2014 the Casino expanded to over 265,000 square feet and two lavish towers with over 1,000 rooms and suites. Encore Wynn Macau similar to the Vegas property opened in 2010. Construction began in 2013 on the Macau Strip for the Wynn Palace.

The latest project is the Wynn Everett located in Everett, Massachusetts close to downtown Boston. A license was granted in September 2014 allowing the construction of the Casino.

The Man Behind the Empire

Steve Wynn married Elaine Farrell Pascall in 1963, divorced in 1986, remarried in 1991 and divorced for a second time in 2010. Together they had two daughters, Kevyn and Gillian.

A traumatic event took place on July 26th, 1993 when Wynn came home from work and received a call from a man who kidnapped his 26 year old daughter Kevyn and was being held for a $2.5 million ransom. Wynn only having $1.45 million in cash available that evening was an agreed settled amount by the kidnapper. Retrieving the money from the casino vault he followed instructions to leave the money in a parked car a few miles from the Strip. The kidnappers then revealed the daughter was in a car at the McCarran International airport. She was found tied but unharmed. Police got a break in the case after Ray Cuddy the kidnapper tried to purchase a $200,000 Ferrari at a dealership in Newport Beach, California. After returning to the dealership a few day later to finalize the deal the FBI was waiting for him. His accomplice Jacob Sherwood was also arrested.

Wynn – “If you’ve got a good self-image, you can deal with handicaps. If you don’t you can have a good vision and be Batman, and you’re ready to kill yourself. You say eyes, and it’s the most horrible thing to all of us. There’s a lot of pity. The most horrible thing about this and the reason I hate to discuss it is someone will say, ‘Oh, I heard about your eyes.’ I’m about as pathetic or sympathetic a character as Attila the Hun.”

At the age of 29 years old Wynn was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, a disease that is heredity and incurable. It is a serious disease that gradually leads to blindness. He established the Michael M. Wynn Center in memory of his father for Inherited Retinal Diseases at the John Moran Eye Center at the University of Utah.


While on his yacht in St. Tropez during a conversation with one of his guests the subject of eating meat and the environmental and health consequences were discussed. It was then after watching a documentary Wynn decided to become a vegan in 2010. All of his restaurants now included a menu that was animal free.

In 2011 he married Andrea Hissom at the Wynn Las Vegas Hotel following a romance on the French Riviera. Andrea formerly married to American banker Robert Hissom. Her son Nick Hissom is a model and recording artist popular for his hit “If I Die Young”.

Steve Wynn hasn’t lost perspective of what matters most in life:

“I’d give up everything for fifteen minutes with my father. To have him walk through this hotel and see what happened. No you’re talking about something more than a big number. I miss the thrill of showing my dad that it worked out OK. He would have been awful proud.”


Wikipedia: Steve Wynn

Imdb: Steve Wynn Biography

Quoteswise: 100 Steve Wynn Quotes

  • wow , quite an amazing man.
  • I hope that these major players like Steve Wynn use some of their accumulated wealth to fund philanthropic endeavours similar to all the fantastic things Bill Gates and his wife have done with the billions he earned through Microsoft. All this cash being hoarded by the top 1% is a horrendous waste.
  • Anyone who reads about business or money knows of Steve Wynn. This story was very well written. I enjoyed reading the business aspects as well as the personal tidbits of his life. I read somewhere they had apprehended his daughters kidnappers, but I had no idea how it happened, a fine inclusion. He is a very big part in the gambling world, isn't he. I believe that soon there will be a new money explosion or should I say infusion, in Vegas by someone like Steve Wynn. Things in Vegas don't seems to say "we are the gambling mecca" anymore. But one day it will be again. Americans are like that, they don't like to loose.
  • How very interesting. I almost always muse on about bizarre coincidences, such as items in the news, and could they or could they not correlate even vaguely or slightly regarding OTHER items in the news. One recent was - someone put their fist through a Monet! ...Is it all about the Monet? To me, it sounds very much like it isn't, and congratulations on such successes. It sounds like there've been a lot of them, and that's definitely what to have in mind throughout life. I hope to make it in some time. Cheers, LP
  • The perfect quote to end with. Great article!

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