Wynn Palace Not for Kids as New Casino Raises Game in LuxuryBy
Steve Wynn’s $4.2 billion casino resort set to open Aug. 22
Billionaire says difficult to call Macau gaming recovery
The 74-year-old founder and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd., who helped transform the Las Vegas Strip into an international gambling destination in the 1990s, is bringing luxury up another notch at the Wynn Palace even as Macau’s government attempts to reinvent the world’s biggest gambling center into a family-friendly playground for tourists.
The casino will be the billionaire’s most expensive project to date, featuring air-conditioned gondolas circling a lake with a $100 million water fountain show synchronized to music. The spa offers a $450 facial using gold-leaf and crushed diamonds. About $200 million in art and Chinese antiques, including a quartet of rare 18th century Qing Dynasty vases, are displayed throughout the property.
“There are better places for kids than Macau and Las Vegas,” Wynn said in an interview in Macau on Monday, ahead of the resort’s Aug. 22 opening. “All of these convention, meeting space, entertainment are pitched at 21-year-olds or above.”
Officials in Macau, the only place in China where casinos are legal, have sought to push operators to build resorts that offer more entertainment options aside from gambling. That’s as gambling revenue plunged for 26 straight months in July following China’s crackdown on corruption that has scared off high-stakes VIP gamblers.
Wynn Macau Ltd. shares have risen about 38 percent in Hong Kong trading this year, while parent Wynn Resorts has gained about 50 percent, surging ahead of benchmark indexes amid anticipation of a looming recovery for Macau. Wynn Macau dropped as much as 1.4 percent to HK$12.40 Wednesday. Wynn Resorts fell 0.4 percent to $101.03 at 3:10 p.m. in New York trading.
Unlike Wynn, casino companies from Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd. to Sheldon Adelson’s Sands China Ltd. have rushed to emphasize how their projects are geared to attract recreational gamblers and their families. The operators are seeking diversification and more so-called mass-market guests as the number of high rollers who splash out millions of dollars on each gambling visit have declined.
Melco’s Studio City, which opened last October, touted a Batman ride and a 400-foot tall Ferris wheel in the shape of a figure eight, while Sands China President Wilfred Wong said the company’s Parisian project, due to open Sept. 13, will allocate a minority of its tables to VIP gamblers. MGM Cotai, scheduled to open next year, will only have mass-market tables, MGM China Ltd. CEO Grant Bowie said.
By contrast, Wynn Palace plans to allocate as many as 60 of the 400 total tables to high-end gambling guests.
The Macau government approved 100 new gaming tables for Wynn Palace at its debut, with another 50 to be allocated in the next two years, fewer than the company wanted, according to Wynn. To make up the difference, Wynn Macau will transfer 250 tables from its existing casino resort.
“We thought 100 was the minimum, and we planned accordingly and we hired accordingly,” Wynn said, adding that the table allocation doesn’t change Wynn Palace’s profit projection. The gaming tycoon last year criticized the government’s limits on gaming tables as “the single most counter-intuitive and irrational decision that was ever made.”
Unlike Adelson and MGM CEO James Murren who have said a Macau gambling recovery is underway, Wynn opted to remain cautious.
“The last two places that opened did not cause the market to grow, did they? No. Will this one? Good question,” said Wynn. “We’ll get an answer to that in September or October. I’m anxious to see it myself.”
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