Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

The Las Vegas Sun's Jeff Simpson, who is a regular contributor on the Vegas Gang podcast, interviewed Steve Wynn today at Encore.

Jeff was kind enough to share some of his thoughts with us here. Continue after the jump to get some good inside info.

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Greetings, folks.

I thought I'd share a few details from my trip to Encore today for an interview with Steve Wynn.

I usually make arrangements for my own one-on-one interviews with Wynn's executive assistants, but this time I was one of three Sun/In Business staffers invited for separate sit downs with Wynn, along with Rick Velotta and Liz Benston.

I arrived at about 11:50 am for my 12:15 pm interview, valet parking at the Encore Tower Suites entrance. I was met by PR folks and taken to the staging area, the Tower Suites registration room. TV-8's Ed Lawrence was waiting to interview Wynn, and I was to follow Ed. The R-J's Norm Clarke was there and slated to follow me.

The interview took place in the Sinatra restaurant. I met the chef, Theo Schoenegger, former executive chef of Patina in Los Angeles, who was waiting in his new digs, hoping to serve Wynn lunch.

The interview site was in front of one of Sinatra's patio windows, a beautiful setting for a TV shot that placed Wynn in front of lush flowers and other vegetation.

I spent about 30 minutes with Wynn, talking with him about a wide range of subjects, which I'll abbreviate here, focusing on lighter stuff and leaving out news elements I'll save for other media:

• This is the third Wynn hotel I've covered from early planning through construction to opening, and we discussed Wynn's feelings about bringing his babies to life. ("I love it," he said. "I tend to be self critical and ambivalent about opening one of these, but this is the best one we've done, by far.") He also noted that the German Shepard by his side had also opened three hotels, Bellagio, WLV and Encore. I corrected him, noting that I had seen his dogs frolicking in the courtyard next to the café at Wynn Macau at its opening, and Wynn agreed, remembering that he had brought his dogs to that opening as well.

• Wynn said operators should learn from this economic downturn, although he didn't name names (I bet you folks wouldn't have any trouble making a few guesses!). "You can't be master of the universe. You don't borrow money just because you can. You don't buy everything in sight, just because you can."

• Wynn said that the design process is about the customer, not the designer, noting that the XS nightclub and its associated restaurant and pool area is something that was dictated by changes in customer preference, folks who want to be a part of the show instead of merely viewing it. He described the Encore's nightclub vibe as a more upscale, sophisticated version of the younger scenes at Palms and Hard Rock. He sees it as similar to the St. Tropez scene, with that kind of action (Great food and wine, DJ music, poolside and indoors) from midafternoon until 5 am or so). "That's not the kind of thing I would have done 10 to 15 years ago," Wynn said. "We're responding to changing, evolving public tastes."

• Encore will cement the sense of the company as occupying the very top of the business, he believes. Wynn Las Vegas will also benefit by an increased array of options for its guests.

• He said the spa is one of Encore's strongest features. "It has to be seen to be believed," he said. I haven't seen it yet (plan to see it Sunday, along with the top-of-the-tower VIP casino), but I believe him.

I would have saved this for a written piece but Reuters published something similar early today. Wynn said he is no longer going to accept lower occupancy to keep his room rates artificially high. He told his hotel president Andrew Pascal that he wanted near maximum occupancy for the WLV and Encore's combined 4,700+ rooms once Encore is fully on line. "I can set the price," Wynn said. "From the top. I told him (Pascal) 'Fill the rooms.' I set the price in Las Vegas. It's bare-knuckle competition. And so we've lowered our prices and we're getting two thousand reservations a day. Think about what that does. It forces everyone to reset their prices," from Bellagio on down. "I don't like to do that, but I need to look out for these folks, our team."

After our interview, I took a stroll through the main entrance atrium and casino. I loved the trees and light in the atrium and the red chandeliers and abundant sunlight in the casino. There were about five different video productions going on in and around the casino, and a lot of employees using "play chips" as new dealers and dealing crews manned their games.

It's fun to experience the buildup of excitement as a property is getting set to open, all at once. "Opening a property" is an important LV milestone, and Encore folks know they are about to add a significant line to their resumes.

One cool thing. They've saved the former Desert Inn parking garage's "secret tunnel" to Desert Inn Road's eastbound lanes, allowing a speedy exit from the Strip's congestion, which I employed on my exit. It's been about seven or eight years since I've utilized the tunnel, back when Wynn was designing WLV and his office was in the Desert Inn's last building.


Read archived comments (12 so far)
December 17, 2008 6:38 PM Posted by Dave

It sounds like you got some great insights from Mr. Wynn. Gee, I wonder who was buying everything in sight, and who was borrowing just because they could? Interesting that he's going to drop room rates.

Hunter--great job on the new website design. Please open a thread where we can lavish praise on it!

December 17, 2008 6:40 PM Posted by Hunter

Thanks Dave!

There actually is a thread on the re-design, here:

December 17, 2008 7:24 PM Posted by mike_ch

Nice insights on the hotel.

Regarding borrowing and buying, pffft. This is listening to one blowhard talk about other blowhards. And the one talking once bought a lot of fine art just because he could, and it damaged the bottom line.

December 17, 2008 8:52 PM Posted by Hunter

Great inside info.

Have a dinner planned at Sinatra - looking forward to it big time.

A WYNN employee had mentioned the DI tunnel thing in a recent conversation - didn't mean a whole lot since I'd never used it before.

All the build up on the spa makes me want to experience it on this first trip. Supposedly a friend-of-a-friend in the spa biz consulted on it, though I don't have any details on it.

Regarding the sky casino - are they designating the room as 'private gaming' (i.e. requires a certain buy in/credit level to be open to the public) or just as a high level room, minus the actual distinction?

I know WYNN was petitioning the State to lower the requirements for private salons - they wanted to be able to determine the qualifications themselves.

December 18, 2008 12:17 AM Posted by asuave

Did they really talk about lowering prices on WLV? Knowing that Mr.W would never let any employee talk about price changes not even if you waved your plastics to the cashier. Talking about prices, damages the numbers of stars in the service given for paper value. I know Mr.W.. he talks about the roots but with his hand he shows you the top of the trees at the same time.. whats in between is the employees job to spice up you imagination. In your own words though, have you ever experienced high class cashier-business? Or you just want to be another b.n.-rudolph?

December 18, 2008 2:03 AM Posted by Mike E

Thanks Jeff for taking the time to share your insights with us. now has a picture of a two queen room at Encore. Completely different layout and no division at all. To call it a "suite" would definitely be a stretch.

December 18, 2008 6:43 AM Posted by Luis

Long time reader of this blog, first post....Excellent piece. Just to note that Wynn is telling the truth on the room rate drop. I just booked 4 nights at the Wynn (Thurs-sun) in late january for $114 a night including taxes (Iguess that makes the room rate $99?) using orbitz. Sometimes the down economy has its upside

December 18, 2008 10:50 AM Posted by Phil

Curious, can anyone confirm that the new Encore sign out front actually does anything beyond the two obvious LED screens. It looks like the lattice behind the word Encore lights up, but I haven't seen any pictures of it lit up at night yet.

December 18, 2008 11:30 AM Posted by David McKee

"Buying everything in sight" sounds like a clear dig at Loveman. Perhaps Gary and Steve are no longer BFFs after Adelson used Loveman as a stick with which to beat Wynn, saying Loveman was "the future" of the casino industry and Wynn was passé.

December 18, 2008 1:13 PM Posted by Brian Fey

I don't know about that lower room rate at Wynn thing. I've been looking at many dates in April and in July, and the rates at Wynn and Encore are both very high.

I know there is substantial buzz about the low room rates at Encore in Jan, but you have to remember, there was a chance Encore would not open until the end of Jan. They have been taking room reservations for Jan on, for many months now. It was not long ago, they just opened up the reservations for Jan. So now they are having to try to fill 2000 rooms for the month of Jan, with no notice. People in general don't travel with no notice. So I'm sure Wynn's theory is, fill them at any cost, and generate buzz, and if people love our product, at least they'll try us out, and many will return. Those rooms are there, and his cost don't change much if they are full or empty, so at least if they are full, people will see the shows, eat, and gamble. Whatever it takes to help ring the register. I think they figure any revenue Encore can bring in during Jan, is just a bonus, as there was a good chance, it wouldn't even be open.

December 18, 2008 2:47 PM Posted by Jeff in OKC

David, I thought Wynn was refering to MGMM, but I guess Harrah's fits the bill, also. Mr. Simpson is very kind to share his info with us, thank you. The site redo is great. Thanks, Hunter

December 19, 2008 1:45 PM Posted by JK

Did he say red chandeliers? Very Wynn Macau.