LAS VEGAS - Gambling impresario Steve Wynn has finally delivered. His $2.7 billion Wynn Las Vegas debuted early Thursday morning to hundreds of eager people clamoring to get the first glimpse of this city’s newest attraction and the most expensive megaresort ever built here.
They fanned out everywhere after the doors opened, swarming the rows of slot machines and gambling tables. They came with cameras and video recorders intent on capturing this slice of Las Vegas history.
“People were pushing and shoving,’’ said Kathie Anderson of Las Vegas, who stood in line several hours. “I’m just excited to be inside.’’
For many, Wynn’s latest creation - and the first major hotel-casino on the Las Vegas Strip to go online in the last five years - didn’t disappoint.
“There is nobody in the world who creates such entertaining and beautiful casinos,’’ said British billionaire Richard Branson as he strolled across the casino floor. “I would say every other casino must be nervous. He’s lifted the bar dramatically.’’
Wynn put his curvy 2,700-room property on 217 acres. A tour reveals an intriguing design that differs in many ways from his previous hotel-casinos such as the Bellagio, The Mirage and Treasure Island.
“I think its an evolution of what he has done,’’ said professor David Schwartz, who directs the Gaming Studies Research Center at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.
“I think the theme is Wynn, which says luxury, sophistication, style.’’ Wynn lost control of those properties when Mirage Resorts was acquired by billionaire investor Kirk Kerkorian in 2000, creating MGM Mirage Inc.
Along with Wynn Las Vegas, the gambling tycoon is building Encore, an adjacent $1.4 billion hotel-casino scheduled to open in 2008. Wynn is also erecting a $700 million casino in Macau and is bidding on one in Singapore.
Shortly before the casino allowed the public to enter, Wynn told a crowd attending a dress rehearsal of Le Reve, a water-themed production, that Wynn Las Vegas was built on design risks. There was a reason why he didn’t release many details about the project when he first conceived it five years ago.
“We would have been accused of shameless overstatement...so we kept quiet,’’ he said. “Talk small, build big.’’ While the days of dark, smoky casinos have long passed, Wynn has finally taken full advantage of the sun that illuminates this desert valley. Light pours into many of its spaces, providing a sense of openness. Vibrant and distinct colors are everywhere from the powerful red carpets with purple and green to the chocolate-brown ceilings.
Wynn Las Vegas, on the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, also embraces nature. He has built an atrium that connects the property’s two main entrances filled with an array of mums and orchids. Waterfalls dot the front part of the property.
His restaurant, Okada, boasts an authentic Japanese garden with a pond teeming with vegetation found traditionally in Asia. Other restaurants have patios facing a “Lake of Dreams,’’ a watery area hidden behind a mountain of evergreen trees. Two years ago, Wynn changed the casino’s name from Le Reve to Wynn Las Vegas, believing the latter was more marketable. But Le Reve didn’t disappear: It’s the title of his impressive art collection that the property will house, including its former namesake by Picasso, Le Reve.
The art collection wasn’t open Thursday morning, but a gallery employee said Wynn’s paintings, including a Cezanne, Gauguin, Vermeer and Rembrandt, would soon be on display. Perhaps most striking about Wynn Las Vegas is that the traditional casino layout has been scuttled. The casino is no longer centerstage, dominating a visitor’s attention and wallet. Many of the high-end restaurants and upscale shops such as Louis Vuitton and a Ferrari-Maserati dealership can be reached without traversing the casino floor.
But the real switch for Wynn this time around, more than 15 years after he opened The Mirage, is what he has done with his name. Wynn is omnipresent. His name is on the casino’s parapet, the two marquees and slot machines. He has a slew of stores, carrying Wynn clothes, Wynn china and Wynn home furnishings.
“This is the launching of a brand,’’ said Ron Kramer, president of Wynn Resorts Ltd., the property’s parent company.