Casino Mogul Steve Wynn Raises the Stakes in Philly

Casino Mogul Steve Wynn
Casino Mogul Steve Wynn

Last month, when Steve Wynn first publicly proposed taking over the Mashantucket Pequot Indian tribe's stalled-out Foxwoods casino project in Philadelphia, his plan seemed modest. Wynn described the would-be enterprise as "cute" and characterized its location as "dandy."

As of Monday, during a splashy meeting with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, the Las Vegas-based casino mogul got serious. Three weeks ahead of deadline, he showed up with color drawings depicting a proposed gambling hall that he promised would be "Wynn top to bottom." With his statuesque blond girlfriend in tow, the recently divorced Wynn put on a full-court press of charisma and salesmanship.

It was the kind of presentation that not every casino boss would be able to pull off. But, as Joseph Weinert, senior vice president of the gambling consultancy Spectrum Gaming Group, puts it, "When Steve Wynn talks, people listen."

Wynn made it clear that he had contributed mightily to the new design, and expressed interest in potentially building a hotel to go with the casino -- a change in strategy from his original proposal. According to The Philadelphia Inquirer,Wynn's sketches "show a low-slung limestone building with red canopies, a fountain in front, shrubs, and flowering landscape." Wynn described it as "classical elements except with contemporary sensibilities." His layout has restaurants separate from the casino floor, so that those profit-centers can attract people who'd rather not be surrounded by gambling.

From the sound of things, Wynn is proceeding as if his union with Philadelphia gaming is already consummated, going so far as to comment that as far as he's concerned, "the deal is done." Mayor Nutter characterized their sit-down as more of an exploratory meeting that was just one more step on the road toward a final decision.

If things do go Wynn's way, gaming consultant Weinert is confident that the Philadelphia outpost will be a serious moneymaker. "Steve Wynn knows the Eastern market, he will attract top management, and the gaming public is aware that the Wynn name stands for quality," says Weinert. "I won't be surprised to see that property generating $100 million of EBITDA." But first, Wynn needs to get approved. Asked to handicap the likelihood of that happening, Weinert says, "I don't know too many people who would bet against Steve Wynn."

Originally published