Steve Wynn was born in New Haven, CT on January 27, 1942. His given name was Stephen Alan Weinberg but his last name was changed to Wynn in 1946 at the age of four. His father owned several bingo parlors in Maryland which Wynn inherited after his father’s death in 1963. Shortly thereafter, Wynn purchased a minority stake in the Frontier Hotel on the Las Vegas Strip in 1967. This was formerly located across the street from where Encore stands today, but the lot is currently vacant.
While owning the small stake in Frontier, he simultaneously operated a liquor distributing company. The income from this company was used in the deal that would help propel him into the gaming industry.
Wynn’s biggest success in his early years was purchasing a parcel of land on the northwest corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Blvd. This is the corner occupied by Caesars Palace. He acquired it from Howard Hughes in a land swap in 1971. The deal was completed with the help of Parry Thomas. Wynn quickly proclaimed that he would build a small casino on the odd-shaped property. Caesars did not want to risk having an eyesore mini-casino as a neighbor and paid Wynn $2.25 million for the property.
Wynn Revamps and Expands the Golden Nugget
Thomas and Wynn decided to invest their new wealth into the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street. The pair felt that the casino was poorly managed and was ripe for a hostile takeover. They purchased enough stock to get Wynn on the Board of Directors. Existing management was ousted and Wynn quadrupled revenue at the property in one year. He expanded the hotel and added amenities to make it one of the most luxurious resorts in Las Vegas.
Atlantic City became the next stop for Wynn where he would go on to build the Golden Nugget in 1980. He eventually sold it to build Mirage in Las Vegas. The Golden Nugget in Atlantic City became the Atlantic City Hilton, which transformed into Atlantic Club. The resort closed in January 2014 however. The current Golden Nugget in Atlantic City is the former Trump Marina and is not related to the former property other than by name.
The proceeds from the sale of Golden Nugget were put to use in Las Vegas. Wynn purchased the parcel of land that now hosts Mirage and Treasure Island from the Howard Hughes estate. In November 1989, Mirage opened on that property. It was the first development on the Las Vegas Strip since 1973.
Mirage Las Vegas Development
Mirage was the first themed resort on the Strip. It cost $630 million and was thought to be a risky investment. It was financed with junk bonds. Treasure Island opened on the property four years later. The Mystere Cirque du Soleil show opened at Treasure Island. It was the first of its kind in Las Vegas. The production still runs today.
The Mississippi gaming market was on fire and Wynn decided to join it. He built Beau Rivage in the heart of the Biloxi Strip in 1999.
Wynn sold his empire of casinos to MGM in June 2000 for $6.6 billion.
Wynn and Encore Las Vegas
Wynn personally purchased the Desert Inn. This was diagonal from Treasure Island at the intersection of Spring Mountain and Las Vegas Blvd. Desert Inn was imploded to make way for Wynn Las Vegas, which opened in April 2005. Encore opened in December 2008. Properties with identical names are located Macau, the largest gaming market in the world.