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What Happened in Vegas

People are streaming into Las Vegas to welcome in the New Year.  Steve Wynn, who is often compared to Walt Disney, has just opened up Encore, his follow-up to his eponymous crescent-shaped tower.  With the way the economy is going, a third offering might be aptly named Triage.  Actually, I hope the Wynn properties do well.

I just finished reading a book published by Disney’s Hyperion arm, Winner Takes All:
Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Vegas
.  It was written by Christina Binkley, who has covered Las Vegas for the Wall Street Journal.  The book was published earlier this year, so it is still timely in describing how The Strip, which is definitely a competitor to the Orlando area, got to be where it is today.

More after the jump.

I can remember family trips to Las Vegas twice a year for competitive swimming invitationals.  Pretty much the only place on The Strip to take four kids was Circus Circus and George Millay’s Wet’n Wild water park (now gone).  Then Steve Wynn’s Mirage opened up in 1989, and Las Vegas would reinvent itself, with a series of themed hotel-casinos with theme park elements, until that trend yielded to a return to focusing on adults as well as the infusion of over-the-top opulence.

If you are looking for a description of how each and every one of these megacasinos was designed and built, this isn’t the right book.  Rather, as the title states, it focuses more on the men behind the latest incarnation of The Strip:

Wynn, who went from the Golden Nugget to The Mirage, building an empire that included Treasure Island and Bellagio before selling to MGM Grand and setting about building a new empire.

Kirk Kerkorian, who developed MGM Grand and led it to become MGM Mirage, which later swallowed up Mandalay (Circus Circus, Excalibur, Luxor, Mandalay Bay).

Gary Loveman, who led Harrah’s to increasing effectiveness, so it was able to take over the Rio and Caesars Entertainment (Harrah’s adopted the Caesars name this year).

Because of reading this book, it came as no surprise to me that it was announced earlier this month that Treasure Island would be sold by MGM Mirage, nor that it was going to be sold to someone who has already been a casino owner.

Other recent news: Star Trek: The Experience closed at the Las Vegas Hilton (a hotel originally developed by Kirkorian).  MGM Mirage’s CityCenter is still under development.  Boyd Gaming’s Echelon Place is delayed.

If you are at all interested in the history of Las Vegas, I recommend this book.