weather icon Clear

At Wynn Resorts, they still do it Steve’s way

I don’t know whether Steve Wynn can sing a lick, but when he called Monday, he sounded a little like his old friend Frank Sinatra crooning “My Way.”

Regrets, he has a few.

But then again, too few to mention.

The touchy subject was Wynn’s controversial dealer tip-sharing policy, which after several years of legal wrangling was recently decided in his favor at the Nevada Supreme Court.

Not surprisingly, he didn’t like my opinion of his decision to create a policy at Wynn Las Vegas that redistributed a portion of the dealers’ tips to other floor personnel traditionally not included in the toke pool. The fact that his decision came after his casino opened made the timing even more ham-handed.

He appeared to care even less for my repeating excerpts of a 2006 meeting with his dealers in which he seemed to go on at substantial length to apologize for the way his policy was implemented. The dealers were on the verge of voting for union representation, in no small part because of the tip-pooling decision.

“What I regretted was that I didn’t do it before we opened, which was the right thing to do and was the mistake,” Wynn said Monday.

He said, “It was an apology for ordering it after the fact.”

Which, I think, the tape makes pretty clear. Wynn was understandably distracted during the hectic run-up to the opening of his Macau casino property when the tip-pooling issue blew up in Las Vegas. As he recalls it, he discussed the issue during lunch in the coffee shop of his Macau casino with visiting labor executives from the Service Employees International Union and International Ladies’ Garment Workers Union. Their advice was unanimous: Return to Las Vegas with metaphorical hat in hand and apologize to a roomful of disgruntled dealers.

He did just that.

The dealers weren’t moved by his speech. They would vote to unionize, but Wynn rightly reminds me that the 10-year union contract includes the tip-sharing provision. In the end, he got his way and a decade-long deal to boot.

Ironically, the dilemma swirled out of the success of the casino. The tip pool, he said, was millions larger than anticipated. That put the dealers’ pay far out of kilter with the paychecks received by floor personnel.

Despite the turmoil and the protracted litigation, Wynn says the company’s dealers are the best paid on the Strip at more than $250 per day on average. And he also says his dealers are happy.

Although Wynn didn’t exactly spell it out, after 47 years in the business he obviously knows the importance of keeping his dealers in a positive mindset. They are on the front line of customer relations and are more important to the atmosphere of a casino than the lighting and wallpaper. At one point he offered, “Only a damn fool would destabilize employees.”

Yes, my thought exactly. That’s why the timing of the rule change seemed so unlike Wynn, whose career has been marked by undeniable success. With some exceptions, he has been the industry’s smooth operator.

But my ears weren’t fooling me. That was Wynn’s voice on the tape. The transcript was accurate, he said. He said what he said, and at the time appeared to mean what he said. Then successfully litigated after what he said didn’t settle the problem.

As for renaming his floor personnel team leaders, Wynn says the casino floor relationship isn’t one of supervision so much as shared effort. Like “busboys and the waiters,” he said.

“They don’t have any hiring or firing capacity,” Wynn said. “They’re just service people, and that’s what they always were.”

Admittedly, it’s been some years since I was a busboy at the old Nevada Hotel downtown. But I sure don’t remember the waitresses treating me like an equal.

As you can see, times have changed — at least at Wynn’s resorts, where they always do it Steve’s way.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. E-mail him at jsmith@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0295.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
7 ways autocomplete can get smarter

Autocomplete is one of the best (or depending on how hastily you push ‘send’ – worst) things in the world. We rely on it so much that Google plans to let us autocomplete whole emails. Here are seven ways predictive input can improve. 1. Recognizing names from previous emails Jakub Kokoszka has a tough name to […]

Movie posters might soon be based on your clicks

You may have thought you left Blockbuster behind, but the basic way we browse movies hasn’t changed all that much. We peruse poster after poster, kind of like walking the aisles of a ‘90s-era video store. That one poster image, meant to appeal to as many people as possible, is often all we see before […]

What I’ll be covering at NAB 2018

The National Association of Broadcasters show kicks off this weekend in Las Vegas.  The show focuses on new and emerging technologies and trends in relation to the media and entertainment industries. As it’s not open to the public, I’ll be at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Saturday, Monday and Wednesday to share some of […]

EXECUTIVE TRAVEL: Forget Strip flash; some prefer lake’s panache

If you get called to a board meeting at Lake Las Vegas, you might want to bring your swimsuit. That’s the term Westin at Lake Las Vegas marketing director Matt Boland uses for upright paddleboard races, one of many team-building exercises offered regularly at the resort.

After $4,700 in live poker career winnings, James Romero, 27, wins nearly $2 million

It was a 15-year celebration of The World Poker Tour at Bellagio for the Five Diamond World Poker Classic. The largest field size in WPT Five Diamond’s history was created when 791 entries were tallied, and it was James Romero, 27, of Portland, Oregon, who won his first WPT title.

Auto electronics at SEMA and AAPEX: A brave new world

The Specialty Equipment Market Association celebrated its 50th annual SEMA show at Las Vegas Convention Center this month by showcasing a car culture of “do-it-yourself” garage mechanics who share a passion for customizing vehicles.