Seeing – or which one of us is really blind?

The center of the casino world has shifted from Las Vegas to Macau, it happened a couple of years ago, but the gap becomes more pronounced every day.  It only took a few years for Macau gaming revenues to pass Las Vegas and that was in the good times.  And for Las Vegas these are not the good times, the nationally economy is in a recession and people are not spending as much money on anything and that includes gambling.  Tourism and gaming revenues in Las Vegas are only now beginning to show a slight movement toward recovery.  In the meantime, all major construction of casino resorts and everything else in Las Vegas has stopped, sometimes leaving unfinished eye-sores standing like sculptures of depression; grotesque caricatures of previous billion-dollar casino resorts their ugly structures adding an entirely new dimension to the skyline of the famous Strip.

Las Vegas will probably recover from this recession, but it will never again be the gambling capital of the world, both Macau and Singapore are likely to generate more gaming revenue and attract more visitors in the future than Las Vegas. Macau gaming revenues are increasing at a double digit rate – increasing somewhere between 30 and 40 percent each month over the same month last year.  Developments do not come as fast as they once did in Vegas, but that is more because of the government policy than interest on the part of developers.  The government controls the number of foreign workers – there are not enough local workers to either build or staff any new casino – and by controlling new permits.  Currently both Sands China and Wynn China are in the cue waiting for permits or workers or both.

The latest project, the $2 billion Galaxy Macau just opened on the 15 of May.  It generated lots of buzz and VIP visitors from all around the world of gaming and business.  One of the visitors was Steve Wynn; during the week leading up to the opening, Wynn declared his next development in Macau will double his company’s revenues and profits and again said that Wynn is a Chinese company; he is reported to spend at least half of his time in Macau and the majority of his thinking centered there.  He toured Galaxy and in a press conference afterward was very complimentary – he said something I have never heard from Wynn  before – he said “I saw things than have caused me to rethink some of my ideas for my next casino.”

Now, mind you, to the gaming industry in the United States, if not the world, Wynn is the visionary, the guru of casino design and casino concepts. So for him to admit that some one else, some one from a relatively new casino jurisdiction had a better idea is big news.  And with the availability of images and video on the Internet, I thought I would take a tour and see if I could see what Wynn saw.  It took a couple of videos and stories to realize I was never going to see what Wynn saw – seeing for him is more complicated, he is nearly blind – because no one in the casino industry has ever been able to see what Wynn saw until he created it in bricks and mortar.

That is why he is a visionary and why the rest of us just follow what he does and we don’t even do that well.  Every time a new casino opened in Las Vegas in the past,  Wynn held a news conference and laughed – pointing out to the reporters all of the things his competition did not understand about the casino industry. Wynn is like Einstein or Darwin, he can imagine and visual things the rest of us can only see with a guide book.

So, I guess I will have to wait for a couple of years for the next Wynn casino to see what he saw – what none of the rest of us saw.  For certain he is not going to copy something, he did not see a color or a chair – he experienced something that let his imagination see a thing that does not yet exist.  My career in gaming has had many parallels with Wynn’s career – except of course in the degree of success – but for 20 years we were doing comparable things.  I was always trying to copy or replicate what an increasingly blind guy could see – it would seem that I am really the blind guy (I have lots of company in the industry) and that is why I am sitting in an office in Reno Nevada typing and Steve Wynn is hold news conferences in Macau talking about his next multi-billion dollar casino.


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