By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus, who represents the congressional district that includes the Las Vegas Strip, said on Nevada Newsmakers she is “glad” Steve Wynn is no longer part of the Las Vegas gaming industry, although she credits the Las Vegas icon with transforming the city into a high-end, luxury destination.
Wynn resigned in February as chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts Ltd. after allegations of sexual misconduct were published in the Wall Street Journal, Las Vegas Review-Journal and other outlets.
The Review-Journal reported Wednesday Wynn will also sell his shares in the company, worth an estimated $2.2 billion.
“I hear it all the time,” Titus said Wednesday about sexual harassment in the gaming industry. “But you don’t expect somebody who is, like, the face of gaming to have been so egregious in their behavior.
“So I’m glad he is gone,” Titus said about Wynn. “And I don’t know what is next.”
Titus said the stories surrounding Wynn “have set off a whole evolution of events.”
“Will there be other people in the industry that you’ll hear about?” she said. “Has this, kind of, cleaned house? What is the Gaming Control Board going to do? I know they are going to advance a policy on this. What is the state Legislature going to do?”
“It has really set off an whole evolution of events,” Titus said. “I had always heard rumors but never that kind of harassment or anything. So yeah, I would say I was shocked. I would be shocked by that kind of behavior from anybody, frankly. But yeah.”
Las Vegas “is a tough place for women,” Titus added.
“In top gaming circles (there are) very few women,” she said. “People who serve as cocktail waitresses, I’m sure they get harassed, not only by customers but by… they are encouraged to be friendly to get the good shifts, the good wages and the good tips. It is just hard work.”
Titus acknowledged that Wynn was a gaming “pioneer.”
“When he built the Bellagio, he changed the tone of The Strip from old-time gaming to modern luxurious resorts,” Titus said. “But that has taken hold, so it is much bigger than just one individual now.”
Titus also commented on the labor strife between the Culinary Union and Alex Meruelo, who recently purchased the SLS Las Vegas, a property on The Strip.
In Reno, Meruelo has the Grand Sierra Resort, one of Reno’s few unionized gaming properties.
“I know he has done a good job with the Grand Sierra in Reno and I know he has some plans for the SLS,” Titus said of Meruelo. “I’m hoping he and the Culinary work it out because I always like our hotels to be unionized. I think people get better service and the people who work there get better benefits and jobs.”
Titus also commented on the rejuvenation of the former Fountainebleau into The Drew Las Vegas. The large steel skeletal structure on the northern end of The Strip has been mothballed since the recession. It is scheduled to reopen as The Drew Las Vegas, with the help of the hotel giant Marriott International, in late 2020.
“That is very exciting. It is right in the heart of The Strip,” Titus said. “If that is finished, it will help the north part of The Strip develop because it is kind of a skeleton sitting there now. So it was very good news (about Marriott International getting involved) and am I not only excited about that, but then, right next door, that will help the SLS as it now redevelops and re-brands itself.”
Titus was also pleased with the recent news, first reported by the Review-Journal, that Golden Entertainment will invest $140 million over three years the Stratosphere. The company plans renovations for about half of it 2,400 room and to its renowned Top of the World restaurant.
Titus said the Stratosphere is a landmark for Las Vegas.
“It sits right where the City of Las Vegas meets the county,” Titus said. “There is a lot of potential and if the local government will work with them to clean up the surrounding area, it will make a big difference.”