London: Steve Wynn, the owner of Encore Wynn in Las Vegas where Prince Harry recently put his crown jewels on display during a game of strip billiards, is eager to protect his reputation and has worked hard to erase the stains of the past, it has been revealed.
Wynn, a flamboyant showman with a surgically-enhanced, wrinkle-free face, carefully coiffed hair, a volcanic temper and a trophy wife, is famous for befriending celebrities whose patronage would be good for business.
Waiving the bills of celebrities is common practice in Vegas, and it still remains unclear as to who paid the estimated GBP 30,000 bill for Prince Harry’s recent stay, the Daily Mail reported.
Even though Wynn is unlikely to be perturbed by the royal’s naked shenanigans, but if drugs do turn out to have been involved, he may swiftly seek to distance himself from the events.
The man who is widely credited for single-handedly ‘cleaning up’ Vegas and making it into a place where Wall Street could invest and young families could holiday may be Sin City’s most revered casino owner, but he still has his gambling licence and his reputation to think about.
For all his denials, Wynn, who is worth USD 2.5 billion, has never shaken off accusations that he was linked for many years to the mobsters who once ruled Las Vegas.
He has weathered successive US investigations over everything from drug-dealing to money-laundering, and has never been found to have committed any wrong-doing.
When he tried to open a casino in London to exploit the influx of rich Arabs in the early Eighties, Scotland Yard denied him a licence.
However, he remains a swaggering icon in the desert city of Las Vegas and has a reputation for being ‘sophisticated’ by Vegas standards.
Wynn reputedly blew his finger off while playing with a gun given to him by a former Mob hitman, and who boasts that his wife Andrea has ‘the greatest butt in the world’.
In 2005, Wynn sank USD 2.7 billion into building just one hotel — the curved glass and steel Wynn Las Vegas. He then did the same again a few years later with the Encore.
So enamoured is he with the idea of himself as Sin City royalty that he arranged his wedding last year to coincide with that of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
In the Seventies and Eighties, when Wynn was building his empire, Las Vegas was full of the mobsters who had originally built their gambling industry.
While some say it was impossible to work in the city and not come into contact with Mafiosi, others suggested that, even so, Wynn had an unusually large number of brushes with the Mob.
Wynn himself has vigorously denied any involvement with the Mob, and none of the numerous law enforcement investigations for gambling licences have ever concluded that he worked for or with organised crime.
In 1967, he was with some business associates of noted mobsters on a private yacht cruise on a lake in Nevada when a naked young woman somehow fell over the back of the boat and was chopped almost in half by the propeller blades.
Her death prompted an investigation, but everyone on board denied having seen the incident.
Wynn also had trouble with officials in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in 1986 after investigators discovered mobster Tony Castelbuono, a friend of Wynn, was laundering the profits of heroin trafficking at his gambling tables. This almost cost Wynn his gambling licence.
Such tales of the Mob seem to have been laid to rest now as Wynn has re-invented himself as the business genius who demolished seedy gambling joints along the Vegas Strip and replaced them with slick hotel-casinos like Mirage, the Treasure Island and the Bellagio.
First Published: Saturday, September 01, 2012, 16:21