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The Kingpins

Las Vegas Power Brokers
Bruce Schoenfeld
From the Print Edition:
Kevin Costner, Nov/Dec 00

(continued from page 4)

Timmins is the executive director of London Clubs International, the British-based entity that owns most of the Aladdin. Goldberg has a financial stake in the hotel, too, having purchased nonequity bonds for a pittance. "If it succeeds, I make a lot of money," Goldberg says. "If it goes broke, I take over a billion-dollar property." Timmins doesn't plan to go broke. He's offering gamblers a more continental experience, a casino on the European model that's more dignified than the Strip usually offers. On the other hand, the casino has varying ceiling heights and the decor of an Arab souk, which is how you know it's in Las Vegas.  

He has grand plans for additional properties, presuming this one succeeds. "I think what Las Vegas has to eventually do is offer an outdoor experience," he says. "You need land to be able to do that, substantial amounts. But we've barely scratched the surface in terms of a sporting experience. Golf. Tennis. Spas. That's the future."  

Or one version of it. The future is in Wynn's imagination, in Goldberg's bankroll, in Kerkorian's need to turn a quarterly profit. It's in the new development out at Lake Las Vegas, where a Hyatt offers water sports and an understated casino, and at the old Las Vegas properties, on the Strip and downtown, which have a retro appeal that rivals Miami's South Beach. It's in the collective and competitive egos of a handful of men. Americans grow up believing they can change the world. Nowhere is that more true than Las Vegas.  

From the runway at McCarran Airport, one can glimpse the future, right there alongside the past. The Strip dominates the view from one side of the airplane. There's the Luxor, an Egyptian pyramid in all its mass-market glory. There's the Chrysler Building and--look!--the Eiffel Tower. As the plane ascends, the city of Henderson comes into view, edging into the thriving sprawl that Las Vegas has become. Vegas's ascension from small town to metropolis has been swift and definitive, and from nowhere is this more evident than above.   But around the metropolis is land. Open land, in every direction. And long before the seat-belt sign is off, all that neon is long gone. The sheer breadth of the Nevada open space renders what man has carved from the desert almost insignificant, and reaffirms a sense of possibility in what is still to come.  

Somewhere below, perhaps inside his condo, Wynn is cogitating. The next great Vegas property is already a vision in his mind. What's different from a decade ago is that he's not the only one who has such a vision. "Steve Wynn has an enormous amount of pizzazz, and everything he builds will be very high quality," says Adelson. "But he's going to need a few more tricks up his sleeve to compete with what he has already created, and what all his imitators have already created. I don't know if he can do it."   Perhaps he can't. Perhaps the Steve Wynn era is over in Las Vegas. But nobody, not even a gambler like Adelson, would take that bet.  

Bruce Schoenfeld is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.    

THE IDEA THAT REBUILT THE STRIP  

A woman named Arline Gluck dreaded spending time in Las Vegas during her husband's business trips in the mid-1980s. Because of that, it's possible to eat dinner at a Las Vegas version of New York's Aureole, Lutece or Le Cirque tonight.  

The restaurant and shopping boom on the Strip is a direct result of Gluck's insight. Her husband, a Los Angeles-based developer, was at the time the chief executive officer of Caesars World, the parent company of Caesars Palace. "She'd spend time with me at the property, and there was nothing for her to do," Henry Gluck says now. "Her theory was that if there was more there for the women who didn't want to hang around the casino all day, they wouldn't be restless and want to hurry home."  

Out of that came Forum Shops at Caesars, which opened in 1992 and have served as the model for generating nongaming revenue on the Strip ever since. Wolfgang Puck opened Spago, a branch of his Los Angeles restaurant, as part of the Forum Shops complex, and its immediate success astonished even Puck. It shouldn't have; there was nowhere else of quality for all these shoppers to eat.  


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