Thousands of tourists have streamed into the lavish new $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas casino-resort since it opened its doors last Thursday to ogle its Ferrari dealership, 22 restaurants, 18-hole golf course and man-made mountain.
But even in over-the-top Las Vegas, bigger is not necessarily better. For all its hype, Wynn Las Vegas was built with intimacy in mind, says Ron Kramer, president of Wynn Resorts. "The scale of things became too big. [Las Vegas] started to lose its appeal."
Casino legend Steve Wynn, chief executive of Wynn Resorts, saw the opportunity to redesign the prototype of the Las Vegas casino-resort with his newest creation. "That's why it took him two years just to design it," explains Kramer. "He re-examined all components because Las Vegas has evolved."
Wynn Las Vegas has a whopping 2,700 hotel rooms. But to do away with the seemingly endless corridors that have become de rigueur in the city's big casino-hotels, several elevator banks are staggered along its curved length. "People don't want to walk 15 minutes just to get to the elevator," says Kramer.
Wynn is credited with ushering in the renaissance of Las Vegas in the 1990s with his mega-resorts. His casinos are known for their eye-catching attractions, such as a 50-foot fire-spewing volcano at the Mirage, a pirate ship in a man-made lagoon at Treasure Island and 1,200 fountains on an 8.5 acre lake at the Bellagio.
Wynn Las Vegas has no such centerpiece. Instead, the 50-story bronze-colored building is the attraction itself, explains Kramer. "Before, the entertainment or attraction was on the outside. But here we're not giving away entertainment on the street level."
In another departure from traditional casino design, there will be windows in every conference room and restaurants will overlook the lush landscape outside.
Scenic views are a significant shift from traditional casino tactics such as eliminating clocks and windows - to stop gamblers from noticing the time and keep them on the casino floor.
The message seems to be that casinos and their guests have matured. Visitors do not have to be tricked into gambling as there will be plenty of other ways for them to part with their money. Like other big casino operators in the city, Wynn Las Vegas is continuing the trend of developing non-gaming business such as restaurants, theatres, spas and bars to create comprehensive entertainment centers.
The benefits are clear: Las Vegas generated $25 billion in non-gaming revenue last year and $6.8 billion from gaming, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.
"Las Vegas was about gambling. Now it has evolved into an entertainment center. There's the ability to mix the two," says Kramer.
Wynn Las Vegas is just the beginning of a new 'fourth generation' of casino development in Las Vegas, says David Schwartz, head of the Gaming Research Studies Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas.
The first generation was that of "glorified clubs with casinos", such as gangster Bugsy Siegel's infamous Flamingo Hotel of the 1940s. Next came casinos with large-scale hotels with as many as 1,500 rooms in the late 1960s. The third generation of the 1990s had a much bigger emphasis on non-gaming revenue and attractions.
The fourth generation will continue to focus on luxury. But it will also have more of a residential component, as exemplified by MGM Mirage's forthcoming $4 billion "CityCenter" complex that will include condo towers as well as casinos, hotels and shopping malls.
Wynn Las Vegas is setting a new standard for luxury, but the company knows it must also have its base of mass market consumers.
Its Ferrari dealership, for example, serves as much to create buzz as to sell cars. "There will be the person who decides to spend $300,000 on a new Ferrari," says Kramer. "But then there's the larger market who can afford a $16 T-shirt and gets to take his picture next to the car.
"As we grow the top end of the market, we also grow the bottom end. It's not just about high-roller business but also about slot machines and growing the masses."
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