Wynn Resorts Ltd’s planned new casino development in Massachusetts will be an international standard property that will attract Chinese and other Asian customers, the firm’s chairman Steve Wynn told GGRAsia on Tuesday.
Analysts said following the confirmation of Wynn Resorts’ licence by state regulators on September 17 that the scheme for the city of Everett, north of Boston, would include a 500-room hotel and a casino with 3,000 slots and 150 tables, as well as 94,000-square feet (8,733 sq metres) of retail space, eight restaurants, a nightclub and a spa.
“That announcement [by regulators] was enhanced tremendously by the announcement last month by Hainan [Airlines] and Cathay Pacific of non-stop service [to Boston],” Mr Wynn told us on the sidelines of Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2014 in Las Vegas.
He added: “I’ve never had a casino [in the U.S.] served by a non-stop [air] service from China.”
Mr Wynn had earlier told a packed hall for his keynote address at G2E that the two carriers were due soon to have direct flights from Beijing and Hong Kong to Boston, though he stopped short of saying it was on the strength of his casino project.
“I don’t know anyone at Cathay Pacific,” the Wynn Resorts chairman told us. “The Hainan guys I do know. I think they are just taking advantage of the desire of Chinese to see the world and go to places, like where their kids go to school [college].
He added: “Boston’s a destination educationally, in terms of research, in terms of medical research and technology research. Boston is a little bit like Silicon Valley, and it’s a financial centre of major international proportions. Boston has got museums. It’s a serious place.”
Asked if his company would try and create a marketing programme to feed Chinese players to the planned Wynn Resorts property at Everett, Mr Wynn said: “Everyone in China who’s interested in resorts knows about us, and they knew about us before for years, with the Bellagio and Mirage [casino properties in Las Vegas]. So our brand is well established. When there’s a Wynn in Boston, there will be Asians and Latin people that will react to it. I’m certain.”
He added: “I think the regulators realise that is true, and I think it’s one of the things that resulted in us being selected.”
Asked whether he was concerned that the law allowing casinos in Massachusetts might be struck down in a so-called recall vote among state electors in November, Mr Wynn stated: “According to the polls, it [the repeal attempt] appears likely to be defeated. And I think probably in late October you’ll see a rush of negatives from the Indian [gaming] operators in Rhode Island and the two in Connecticut… But the whole idea is to keep the tax revenues and the jobs in Massachusetts. I think it’s a losing argument for the outsiders.”
The Wynn Resorts project is expected to create 3,700 construction jobs and 4,382 permanent jobs, generating US$267 million per annum in state and local taxes, said Union Gaming Research LLC on September 17.
Cotai land deal
Last week, Macau’s Commission Against Corruption told GGRAsia that an investigation was still active into a land deal on Cotai where Mr Wynn’s second Macau resort – the US$4 billion Wynn Palace – is under construction. That is despite Mr Wynn having indicated a day earlier at a press event in Macau that the graft watchdog was satisfied with the information provided by his companies.
Asked about this latest development, Mr Wynn said: “Everything about that transaction was so transparent… We created a track record so incredibly bulletproof that it’s laughable.”
He added: “Now somebody says ‘Check the land deal, there’s corruption!’ So the Commission Against Corruption says ‘We’ll check it out’ – informally. We meet with them, we show them everything, they say ‘Fine thank you’. Now, do they make a statement they’re done? No. It’s not their style.
“We have zero sensitivity to this issue. I’ve been doing this for 42 years. It [the issue] is absolutely a dry hole.”
He continued: “A child would have known you can’t play those kind of games with the [U.S.] Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Why would you risk your business?… Anybody who thinks we’re nervous about the [Macau] Commission Against Corruption has totally misunderstood this company.”
GGRAsia additionally asked Mr Wynn about a Frontline documentary that was due to air on the Public Broadcasting Service in the U.S. and has been widely trailed as alleging illegal practices among Macau’s junket operators.
Mr Wynn told us, referring to the content of the programme: “They got this guy who’s an ex-policeman, who says arbitrarily that for all the bets made in [Macau] VIP rooms there’s 500 billion [patacas] in bets on the side. He just said it. There’s no proof – nothing. It’s a ridiculous statement if you know anything [about the industry].”
The Wynn chairman added: “Number two, Lowell Bergman [the journalist fronting the documentary] interviewed a guy in jail who couldn’t put a sentence together. It’s quite extraordinary. And the guy in the jail says ‘Well I haven’t been around [free] since 1991 or 1992′. That was 15 years before we opened [in Macau]. It was so embarrassing, I think that’s why PBS pulled it.”
We also asked Mr Wynn about his lawsuit alleging slander by hedge fund short-seller Jim Chanos. In April Mr Chanos reportedly told an audience at an invitation-only event that Wynn Resorts and Mr Wynn had violated the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Mr Chanos has so far declined to comment on the lawsuit.
The U.S. Justice Department mentioned in 2013 an investigation into a US$135 million gift to the University of Macau Development Foundation by Wynn Macau Ltd, a subsidiary of Wynn Resorts. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission also investigated the case but recommended no enforcement action against Wynn Resorts.
“Chanos is now a defendant,” Mr Wynn told GGRAsia. “I’m not going to let Chanos go… If you mention the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in the same sentence as this company, you get a day in court.”
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”To date, we have responded to eight cities and prefectures [in Japan] for requests for information or requests for concepts including most recently in Osaka and we are now preparing for Yokohama”
Francis Lui Yiu Tung
Vice chairman of Macau-based casino operator Galaxy Entertainment Group