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October 1, 2014

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Wynn: Obama’s remarks bad for convention business

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Steve Wynn

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  • Steve Wynn on the Las Vegas convention business and job market
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  • Steve Wynn on Obama's remarks on Las Vegas
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Steve Wynn touched on more than just finances during Tuesday’s Wynn Resorts earnings call. The casino owner joined city officials in their criticism of President Obama’s remarks on corporations spending taxpayer dollars in Las Vegas.

“The president, in what amounted to a slip of the tongue, I imagine, said he doesn’t think the people who received benefits from the government should be going on junkets to expensive places or Las Vegas for wasteful spending … which stigmatized the convention business that could come to Las Vegas,” Wynn said.

Wynn said he’s sure the president didn’t mean to stigmatize all convention and meeting business in Las Vegas – just trips by those companies that receive federal funds. But it still has an effect on the Las Vegas economy, including his own resorts, he said.

Wynn said since the president made his remarks, a large corporation that didn’t receive taxpayer dollars pulled out of a $5 million convention at his resorts.

“It was a direct result of the comment made by the president,” Wynn said. “Whatever the president’s intentions were, it gives you an idea of how sensitive the public is.”

Wynn didn’t name the company that pulled out but he called the company “one of the healthiest in the country, much healthier than the government.”

Convention visitors to Las Vegas dropped 5 percent from 2007 to 2008, said Jeremy Handel, spokesman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

“In response to the bad economy and the misconceived press out there about the convention industry, we are developing a campaign in relation to that to express the importance of the meeting industry in Las Vegas and that Las Vegas is a place where business gets done,” Handel said.

Las Vegas hosted more than 22,000 meetings, conventions and trade shows last year, the LVCVA reported.

The president’s comments came after Wells Fargo & Co., which received a $25 billion federal bailout, canceled a conference at two high-end Las Vegas hotels in response to criticism from Congress after press reports of the company’s lavish trips.

After Obama’s comments, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. moved a three-day conference from Mandalay Bay to San Francisco, incurring a $600,000 cancellation penalty to skip town. Morgan Stanley, which has received $10 billion in bailout funds, canceled a trip for top employees to the Monte Carlo.

Wynn agreed that Congress needs to be critical of those spending federal bailout money but is afraid Obama’s remarks have characterized Las Vegas as a place of wasteful spending.

“We have hundreds of thousands of employees here, more than the auto industry. I hope that Uncle Sam recognizes that and that the rhetoric that is used is more considered in the future because it’s been demonstrated to us that it can have unintended consequences,” Wynn said.

Las Vegas is one of the most technologically advanced locations to hold meetings, and it’s a value compared to other cities, Wynn said.

Wynn said he’s created numerous jobs in the city with his Wynn Las Vegas and Encore resorts. He said the government can’t boast of the same accomplishment.

“I created 4,000 or 5,000 jobs here,” he said. “Does that make us a bad guy? How many new jobs did Uncle Sam create? Zero. “

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