Casino Mogul Steve Wynn's Midas Touch

60 Minutes: Charlie Rose Interviews The Man Who Helped Reinvent Las Vegas

This story was first published on April 12, 2009. It was updated on July 16, 2009.

If you look down at the earth at night, the astronauts say the brightest spot on the planet is the Las Vegas Strip. The man who turned up the wattage in Las Vegas is casino mogul Steve Wynn. He set off a building boom in the 1980s that turned a bunch of gambling joints into an international tourist spot.

Las Vegas became the fastest growing city in America until the financial meltdown hit it - hard.

As Charlie Rose reported in April, the gambling industry has been in desperate shape. Revenues in Wynn's Las Vegas properties have plummeted about 30 percent in the recession.

But the economy didn't stop him from opening his most opulent casino resort yet, the Encore. Rose, who has known Steve Wynn both personally and professionally for about 15 years, profiles him for 60 Minutes.



At 67, Wynn is a legend in Las Vegas - the man with the Midas touch who added glamour to the gambling industry. Even in this recession, thousands came to try their luck at his new casino, Encore, when it opened in late 2008.

Encore cost nearly $2.3 billion dollars, a risky bet in a bad economy.

Asked why he'd open a hotel in this economic environment, Wynn told Rose, "Well I'll tell you right now that if I had any idea this…I wouldn't if I had a choice. But this project was started four years ago. These things have a huge lead time."

The gambling industry has been battered by the recession and taken the city of Las Vegas down with it. Some casinos stand half-built; unemployment is over 10 percent.

And while Wynn has had to slash employees' pay and lower room prices, he plows ahead, doing whatever it takes to get customers to his new hotel.

When he opened his namesake Wynn casino-hotel, he shot a famous TV ad standing right on the edge of the top of his hotel - dozens of floors above Las Vegas. For Encore, he did an encore performance for a commercial, this time sitting on the edge of the building.

The Encore and Wynn casino-hotels are connected, situated right next to each other. And he has a third casino hotel in Macau, China.

Inside, his hotels are fantasy lands for well-heeled adults. He brought gourmet restaurants and high end shopping to the strip.

His hotels may be extravagant but his business strategy is conservative. His company is not highly leveraged and has over $1 billion in cash to help ride out the recession.

"I want to understand a bit about the casino business," Rose remarked.

"So do I," Wynn joked.

He told Rose the only way to win in a casino is to own one, "unless you're very lucky."

And he says, even when people are lucky, they usually gamble away their winnings.

"You have never known in your entire life a gambler who comes here and wins big and…walks away?" Rose asked.

"Never," Wynn replied.

"You know nobody hardly that over the stretch of time is ahead?" Rose asked.

"Nope," Wynn said.

The customer's loss is Wynn's gain. He's a billionaire, but he isn't all that interested in gambling: his passion is creating the resorts.

He works closely with his design team and signs off on nearly every detail.

Asked why he focuses so much on how things look, Wynn said, "I can't help myself. It's a sickness. My doctor says if I take my medication I'm no danger to anybody but myself. I can't help it."

He told Rose that brings him the greatest joy.

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