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Steve Wynn's Political Voice Gets Louder, Views Not Shared by All

By Howard Stutz, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Oct. 18, 2009--Steve Wynn had more face time on Fox News last week than Glen Beck. He also threw in an appearance on CNBC.

The billionaire chairman and chief executive officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd. criticized President Barack Obama's handling of the economy and health care reform. Wynn was seemingly the spokesman for America's middle class.

During a roundtable on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, and in interviews with Fox's Neil Cavuto and CNBC's Maria Bartiromo, Wynn mixed commentary with pithy sound bites.

"Government has never increased the standard of living of one single human being in civilization's history," said Wynn, who employs 20,000 workers.

He believes Obama isn't focused on job creation.

"Soaring rhetoric and great speeches, with or without a teleprompter, aren't going to change the truth," Wynn said. "The biggest enemy, the biggest obstacle, that working middle-class America has is government spending."

Some of Wynn's rivals don't share his opinions. Harrah's Entertainment Senior Vice President Jan Jones said the administration is making the right decisions concerning the economy. Jones is worried Wynn could unwittingly hurt the re-election of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whom Wynn is supporting.

"I really don't understand why Steve is doing this," Jones said.

Divergent views are not new to the industry, which is split on Internet gaming.

American Gaming Association CEO Frank Fahrenkopf Jr. is happy that a casino boss is the spokesman for the private sector.

"It's the normalization of the industry, and that's a good thing," Fahrenkopf said.

Wall Street is puzzled by Wynn's actions. Few question the right to his opinion, but Wynn's views have grown louder and more aggressive.

Some wonder whether his politics are good for Wynn Resorts.

University of Nevada, Las Vegas gaming historian David G. Schwartz said previous generations of casino executives kept their political views hidden.

"We're in an era of celebrity CEOs," Schwartz said.

While critical of Obama, Wynn has also praised the communist Chinese government, even as Beijing took steps to slow growth in Macau, where Wynn operates one casino and is opening a $675 million resort next year.

"He's going out of his way to overly compliment the Chinese," said one observer.

Wynn's Obama remarks won't hurt him in New York. He is one of six bidders seeking to operate a casino at Aqueduct Race Track.

Gov. David Paterson, who will select the winner, had a falling out with the White House recently. There also seems to be an infatuation in some markets with having a Steve Wynn-run casino.

Howard Stutz's Inside Gaming column appears Sundays. E-mail him at hstutz@reviewjournal.com or call 702-477-3871. He blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/stutz.

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Copyright (c) 2009, Las Vegas Review-Journal

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