JUNE 18, 2005
Why an F1 race in Las Vegas makes a lot of sense
There has been much talk in recent weeks about about a Grand Prix in Las Vegas and it is said that casino magnate Steve Wynn was a VIP guest at the recent Canadian Grand Prix. Wynn is no stranger to F1 and back in the 1990s spent a lot of time talking to Ecclestone about a deal for a Grand Prix in Las Vegas. He even visited the Monaco Grand Prix to see how the Old World handles F1. The discussions in the 1990s ranged from the original plan of an event on the main Las Vegas Strip but this was shot down by the other casino owners who did not want access disrupted. Wynn then looked seriously about combining a golf course with a race track to the south of The Strip. In the end that did not get planning permission and the golf course was built without the circuit. That was the end of the story but by 2000 Wynn had lost control of his massive Mirage empire, investors becoming unhappy with his prodigious spending on new projects, and he was ousted during a hostile takeover of Mirage by Kirk Kerkorian's MGM empire.
Almost immediately, Wynn established a new company called Wynn Resorts with Japanese investor Kazuo Okada. The company was partially floated on the stock exchange and Wynn raised the money to embark on a new project. He bought the old Desert Inn for $270m and began demolishing the site the following year. He has since spent $2.7bn to build a new mega-resort, which boasts a 50-storey 2700-room hotel, a golf course, a three-acre lake and a retail area which includes a Ferrari-Maserati dealership. This went into operation a few months ago and pulled in revenues of $64.3m in its first month of operation. It is however laregly unknown around the world, despite a major marketing push including a cross-promotional relationship with Societe des Bains de Mer, the company which runs the hotels and casinos of Monaco.
Wynn has plans to expand from the 217-acre site to build another $1.4bn hotel-casino, to be called Encore, next door to Wynn Las Vegas. This is scheduled to open in 2008 and with control of a large chunk of land and a golf course, Wynn is in a position to have his own race track, without needing the agreement of the other casino barons. Grand Prix racing also fits in with the high-end luxury market he is aiming for with the company, which charges $300 a night for rooms in Wynn Las Vegas. He also is building a $700m casino in Macau and is bidding for the rights to build another in Singapore.
It is thought likely that any event in Las Vegas would be in addition to the United States Grand Prix in Indianapolis rather than in place of the event in Indiana.
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