LAS VEGAS -- Las Vegas is about to be tested as never before by the
spread of gaming to Indian tribal lands in its major customer
market, California, according to Steve Wynn, chairman of Mirage
Resorts. But it will be far from a death blow to the city, Wynn
told delegates at the recent Nevada Governor's Annual Tourism
"Proposition 5 [the ballot measure in which California residents
overwhelmingly approved Indian casinos] was a morbid kind of thing
for Las Vegas," Wynn acknowledged. "A potential 150 or so gambling
locations in a state where so much of our business originates is
something to be understood, not ignored. But we have things in Las
Vegas that enable us to withstand world economic downturns, the
opening of gambling in Atlantic City, riverboat gambling and all
For one thing, Wynn said, Las Vegas has, or will have within the
next year, an outlet for every major retailer in the world, from
Nieman Marcus to F.A.O. Schwartz; a restaurant run by every major
chef in the nation, and a slate of entertainment possibilities that
cannot be matched by any Indian casino. "There are more shoppers,
more eaters and more people going to shows than there are
gamblers," Wynn said. "And the sooner we all start focusing on that
and worrying less about the slot machines, the better."
Visitors did not start coming to Las Vegas for the gambling in
the first place, Wynn claimed. "The draw was always the town
itself, the exaggerated, totally lacking in subtlety, not exactly
tasty but always exciting 24-hour-a-day party that is Las Vegas,"
he said. "It has always been the noncasino aspects of Las Vegas
that has been the magnet -- the shops, the restaurants, the
entertainment, the color, the excitement. Hardly anybody says,
'Let's go on vacation someplace where I can play video poker,' or
'I can't live another week without a crap game.' Gambling is fun
once they get here, but it's not why they started coming."
Nevertheless, with all that it has going for it, Las Vegas must
keep working "with imagination and a lot of courage" to maintain
its place of preeminence in the tourist industry, Wynn said. "After
this, anybody who thinks that the existence of slot machines gives
Las Vegas some kind of privileged status is about even with the
Model T Ford," he said.
"Proposition 5 will be challenged in court and may eventually
have to be put to another vote. But Indian gaming in one form or
another is here to stay," he added. "Riverboat gambling and Indian
casinos are now to be found in 37 states."
The governor's conference -- which drew a record of more than
1,000 delegates -- was held in the new Bellagio Hotel, one of
Wynn's Mirage Resorts properties.