Almost two years ago, Wynn Resorts Ltd. announced a major land deal: It was buying a chunk of the Strip for $336 million.
Today, it’s still unclear what the company will do with it.
During an earnings call last week, after an analyst asked what the casino operator might do with the site, Wynn CEO Matt Maddox said it likes owning the land for its “option value” and is “continuing to think about what could work” there.
Maddox also said that, “in order to really understand what would work,” executives first want to see the nearby Chinese-themed Resorts World Las Vegas and the 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium open. Both are under construction and slated to open next year.
In some ways, the question mark hovering over Wynn’s 38 acres next to the Fashion Show mall isn’t a surprise.
Landing funds for a megaresort project in Las Vegas is no simple task. Plus, the north Strip is poised to be flooded with thousands of new hotel rooms in the coming years from current projects, and it’s anyone’s guess how they will impact competitors.
Will the new offerings boost tourism for everyone, siphon tourists from other properties or fall flat?
But Wynn’s holding pattern also shows that, a dozen years after the New Frontier was imploded there, we still don’t know the future of a sprawling parcel on tourist-choked Las Vegas Boulevard that has seen big plans come and go.
Wynn spokesman Michael Weaver said in an email Friday that Maddox’s “option value” comment was a reference to “the options the parcel offers” the company as it observes future development on the Strip.
Weaver also said the property is not for sale.
“We don’t have any comment beyond that,” he said.
The site has a volatile history. Israeli investors bought the New Frontier in 2007 for more than $1.2 billion and toppled it with plans to develop a luxury resort. But the economy crashed, and they never built it.
Australian billionaire James Packer acquired the property through foreclosure in 2014 and set out to build the 1,100-room Alon Las Vegas. But Packer reportedly had trouble raising money for the project, and his company, Crown Resorts, bailed on the development and put the land up for sale.
Enter Wynn Resorts, which in December 2017 unveiled plans to acquire the 34.6-acre Alon site and some adjacent property. The smaller portion is next to the Trump International and was once earmarked for a second tower for that hotel.
Wynn Resorts founder Steve Wynn told analysts in January 2018 that he wanted to move quickly on a project at the new site, with talk of building 2,000 to 3,000 rooms.
Four days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn had a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct. Wynn, who called the allegations “preposterous,” soon resigned as chairman and CEO, citing “an avalanche of negative publicity.”
As the property stayed vacant, plans for other hotels near Wynn’s acreage have taken shape in the past few years.
The 3,400-room Resorts World, which is years behind schedule and showed little visible progress as recently as the spring of 2017, has been a busy construction site for some time. The unfinished former Fontainebleau, now the Drew Las Vegas, is scheduled to open in 2022 with around 3,800 rooms.
Also, developer Lorenzo Doumani, who received approvals this spring for a 720-room nongaming hotel on Convention Center Drive, plans to finish the Majestic Las Vegas project in 2023.
What will Wynn Resorts do with its land? Who knows? But given Las Vegas’ never-dull real estate market, the tract of dirt is sure to kick up more action at some point.