Gaming experts can’t imagine Las Vegas Strip without Steve Wynn

Some gaming industry sources talked about Steve Wynn’s resignation as if he had died.

“There is something of a metaphorical passing when there’s a name on a building that is no longer associated with the company,” Chris Grove, managing director at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming, said Tuesday about Wynn’s exit as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, operator of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore on the Strip. “Most people imagined that he would be with his company for the rest of his life.”

David Schwartz, director of UNLV’s Center for Gaming Research, said Wynn, “more than anybody, is responsible for how Las Vegas has evolved. The industry is going to need more visionaries and leaders to step up.”

Representatives of MGM Resorts International and Las Vegas Sands Corp. said they did not have any reaction or comments on Wynn’s resignation. Representatives for Caesars Entertainment, Station Casinos and Boyd Gaming Corp. did not immediately return requests for comment Tuesday night.

A new tone?

Wynn’s resignation came amid allegations that he sexually harassed employees. The Wall Street Journal on Jan. 26 published explicit accounts of Wynn demanding sexual favors from female employees, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday published allegations that he pressured a waitress into sex about 30 years ago, allegedly telling his employee he had “never had a grandmother before” and wanted “to see how it feels,” according to a court document and interviews with multiple sources.

“I was hoping the allegations were not proved to be true,” said Oliver Lovat, CEO of the Denstone Group, a consultancy on customer-facing, asset-backed investment with a focus on casino resorts.

“I think nobody’s happy about this or takes joy in this. It is very sad for Las Vegas and the industry in general,” Lovat said.

Grove said he hopes Wynn’s resignation will start a new era in which the casino industry “displays no tolerance for treatment of women in any fashion other than a fair, respectful, and equivalent one.”

Lovat says the industry has changed in the decades since claims of sexual misconduct against Wynn were made in a court filing in 1998.

“I think the development of management in the gaming industry has changed dramatically over the last 20 or 30 years,” Lovat said. “I think some of the tales told of yesteryear would not happen in the industry today.”

Based on the momentum of the #MeToo movement, however, Grove said he would not be surprised if similar allegations ripple through the Las Vegas Strip.

“The broader pattern that we’ve seen over the last year is that as these conversations have percolated in other spheres of our culture — whether those be entertainment or politics, stories of one individual or company turned into stories involving other individuals and companies,” Grove said. “It is more likely than not that this is not the last chapter for the gaming industry.”

Reconciling

Schwartz said it will be a process to square Wynn’s legacy with his alleged behavior.

“I think it’s going to take a while for people to reconcile how they feel about him,” he said. “It may involve some soul searching for everybody.”

UNLV psychology professor and researcher Stephen Benning said it is easy for people to see only the good of iconic people such as Wynn.

“People get used to thinking of a person in a particular way, and they make emotional associations with them, and they have beliefs about that person — especially if they’ve enjoyed that person’s work or benefited from the work,” Benning said. “It’s not like people can forget how they felt or what they enjoyed. Now they have to learn something completely different that is incompatible with what they already have in their mind. And that will have to take a lot of effort.”

Contact Nicole Raz at nraz@reviewjournal.com or 702-380-4512. Follow @JournalistNikki on Twitter.

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