The way to Wynn in Vegas
Las Vegas has got a lot classier, says Anthea Gerrie, and one of the reasons why is Jewish hotelier Steve Wynn
You have to blame it on Steve Wynn — the ever-escalating glitz, glamour, traffic, claustrophobic crowds and sheer hype that has made such a fabulous monster of Las Vegas, a resort which grows ever more fabulous and more monstrous by the day.
For it was Wynn, the Jewish casino entrepreneur, who decided to bring class to what was once — and not so long ago — a fun but unashamedly tacky gambling town marooned in the desert.
As Wynn created upmarket hostelries like the Mirage and Bellagio —which daringly set caviar bars, tuxedoed piano players and Picassos amongst the slot machines — novel and expensive attractions duly appeared to jazz up the town: white tigers, exploding volcanoes, those very classy dancing fountains immortalised in Ocean’s Eleven.
A virtual war of the worlds grew up on the Strip, as brashly reinvented Luxor, Paris, New York and Monte Carlo opened as the crowd-pleasing response. But the serious class challenge was mounted by Wynn’s nemesis, Sheldon Adelson, whose Venetian, with its startlingly lifelike Grand Canal and Rialto Bridge, set new top-end standards in Nevada.
Now Wynn (who sold on the Mirage and Bellagio), has attempted to trump the lot with an eponymous £1.5 billion hotel which makes no attempt to play the theme game. Instead, Wynn has harnessed the pulling power of designers — from Blahnik to Ferrari — who have never before hung their signs in Vegas; installed an amazing artificial garden of a lobby and complemented the live entertainment with an electronic ballet danced by giant flowers over a Lake of Dreams. It is the best show in town not starring a human.
The competition is responding in the only way — short of rebuilding — that it can, with truly world-class restaurants to replace the all-youcan-eat buffets and stunning stage productions in place of the cheesy spectaculars of old. Those traditional elements are still tucked away in most hotels (even the Wynn), but now those who prefer, can be fed by the world’s finest celebrity chefs and see the latest Broadway musicals too.
All this activity — not to mention new non-stop air service by BMI from Manchester — only adds to the crowd appeal. But perhaps the most interesting new development in the Las Vegas area is the one that lies half an hour outside the packed metropolis. Lake Las Vegas is for those who want the glitz and the gambling in close proximity, but who crave a more serene environment to stay in, free of traffic-jams and the packed hotel lobbies where you can only reach your room through the serried ranks of slot machines.
The Ritz-Carlton betrays a hint of its location only in the fact that, like its neighbours 17 miles distant on the Strip, it has been relentlessly themed — in this case to resemble a Tuscan village. But the lakeside walks and the chain’s famously attentive service are a relief after battling your way to food, entertainment or baccarat tables down the road. And there are local versions of
Steve Wynn’s new £1.5 billion hotel makes no attempt to play the theme game