Steve Wynn, Mirage Resorts/Wynn Resorts
Reinventing Las Vegas
Steve Wynn, who earlier had revamped the Golden Nugget casino with funding raised by Milken and Drexel Burnham Lambert, already provided jobs for more than 5,000 employees. But he believed that could grow - that the town could be reinvigorated with a “makeover.” His idea was to build hotels on a grand scale that offered impeccable service, elegance and activities for families. In essence, Wynn wanted to build an ‘adult Disneyland’ in a radical departure from traditional Las Vegas.
Funded once again by Milken through a variety of bond issuances, Wynn’s Mirage Hotel and Casino opened with fanfare in 1989, the first new hotel to be built in Las Vegas in 16 years. Wynn’s success was contagious, and Mike and Drexel followed up by financing new hotels at Caesar’s, Circus Circus and Excalibur, as well as funding the renovation of Kirk Kerkorian’s MGM Grand into the new Bally’s Hotel. Wynn followed his success with Treasure Island and the elegant Bellagio, which featured a collection of some of the world’s greatest paintings, fine restaurants and shops, and dazzling outdoor shows. By 1998, Wynn and Mirage Resorts had created some 30,000 jobs, and indirectly generated thousands more at companies servicing his hotels. Continuing this tradition, Wynn Las Vegas opened in 2005 as the preeminent luxury hotel in the city. Three years later, Wynn opened a sister hotel, Encore, a $2.3 billion, 2,034-room casino-resort that created 5,300 local jobs.
William Thompson, a public administration professor at UNLV, credits Wynn with leading the desert city out of its doldrums, writing: “A new psychology of pride and growth took over the town (Maverick Spirit: Building the New Nevada).” The number of annual visitors to Las Vegas tripled between 1984 and 2006, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority. Increased tourism has spurred both demographic and economic growth. The city's population nearly doubled between 1985 and 1995, according to city officials, and the U.S. Census Bureau reports the population will have grown from fewer than 500,000 people in 1980 to two million in 2006.
The corresponding economic boom since the Mirage opened has made Las Vegas the fastest-growing economy in the U.S., according to the Arizona State University Economic Outlook Center. (The Milken Institute ranks Las Vegas second on its list of Best Performing Cities index.) The number of hotel rooms, which had stagnated at roughly 60,000 in the mid 1980s, more than doubled to 149,000 by 2006. Total employment nearly tripled from 300,000 in 1988 to about 900,000 in 2006. Impressively, many of these new jobs are high-tech positions, as more than half of new companies recently relocating to the Las Vegas Valley have been high-tech/manufacturing firms.