Wynn discusses management philosophy, 2016 campaign, China

Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, laughs as he answers questions after his keynote address during the annual Electronics for Imaging users conference Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, at Wynn Las Vegas.

On the night of the Democratic debate at the Wynn Las Vegas, an executive who works at the casino got a call from a senior vice president at CNN, the cable channel sponsoring the debate.

The CNN executive had called to recount a story. After asking for directions to an employee earlier that night, a security guard had offered to walk him over to CNN’s camp for the night without knowing he was a high-level CNN executive. It left such an impression he made the call.

“This is the most incredible hotel I’ve ever stayed in,” the senior vice president said.

Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn used this as an example of the type of story his company prides itself on during a wide-ranging keynote speech Tuesday at a conference for printing technology company Electronics for Imaging. The speech veered often from management strategy to politics, with Wynn at one point calling Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders a “moron,” to current events, including Wynn’s take on China’s economic growth.

Steve Wynn EFI Keynote

Steve Wynn, chairman and CEO of Wynn Resorts, gives a keynote address during the annual Electronics For Imaging (EFI) users conference at Wynn Las Vegas Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. Launch slideshow »

Creating an effective organization, Wynn said, is about fostering a culture where employees feel that they are valued and are rewarded for work that helps elevate the company.

“Leaders bring their flock to another level,” he said.

Wynn said the integrity of a product always comes down to the people.

He highlighted a program at Wynn Resorts meant to boost employee self-esteem and reinforce positive behavior. In the program, employees share stories in shift meetings about how they helped a customer the previous day. Wynn said once an employee drove to Southern California and back in a night to pick up diabetes medicine for an elderly guest who had left it at home.

Wynn said: “We made a hero out of him.”

The casino mogul noted that most organizations have spotlight programs honoring an employee of a month or a supervisor of the year. The flaw, he said, is workers have to be selected — your boss has to see you when you are at your best or you have to share the same values as your boss.

Wynn said the difference is his employees self-nominate themselves.

The idea that positive behavior should be reinforced can be applied to everything from business to politics, something he used as a springboard to discuss the 2016 presidential election.

Wynn began by talking about the most recent Democratic debate on Sunday night.

“Bernie Sanders,” Wynn said. “God bless him, that moron.”

When hosting an event like the October Democratic debate, Wynn said he did not want to stake out positions because the casino’s employees and their families have a range of political views.

“But Bernie Sanders is an exception,” he said of the candidate. “You can’t let him get away with the crap (he says). The man is older than I am and nothing has rubbed off on him. He has not the first idea of how the country works, or even worse, he knows but he lies about it anyway.”

He moved onto a Republican presidential candidate, the real estate mogul Donald Trump.

“I like Donald Trump. He’s a friend of mine,” Wynn said. “But if there was gambling in politics, I’d like to bet Donald $25 million … that Ted Cruz is eligible to be president.”

A spokesman for Wynn Resorts confirmed to the Associated Press in October that Wynn had spoken to all Republican candidates at some point, adding that he had cautioned Trump against a third-party run and was critical of his plan for mass deportations.

At several points of the keynote address, Wynn criticized President Barack Obama, including for imposing tax penalties.

“I say use the tax policy as a carrot, not a stick,” Wynn said. “Reinforce the behavior affirmatively. Reinforce the behavior you seek to encourage. It works with health care. It works with running a hotel (and) casino. It works with selling the printers. It works with selling the software.”

During a question and answer session at the end of his keynote, Wynn circled back to the 2016 campaign. With change occurring so quickly today, he called both current events in the world and politics in the U.S. “magnificently confusing.” People can only be misled for so long before they get angry, Wynn said, noting that such frustration is reflected in polling for the 2016 primaries.

“If that isn’t anger,” he said. “I don’t know what is.”

The Associated Press reported in October that Wynn has donated to Democratic causes and candidates on occasion, including Vice President Joe Biden in 2007. But their analysis showed he and his wife Andrea have more often support Republican groups and candidates.

One attendee at Wynn’s keynote asked about his thoughts on geopolitics, given his company’s interests in Macau, a special administrative region of the People’s Republic of China.

China reported Tuesday that economic growth in the country, the world’s second-largest economy, had fallen to its lowest rate since 1990. Wynn said the country’s economy right now is the subject of “close inspection and speculation” by economists all over the world.

He added that only time will tell what the country’s true growth is.

“But so much depends upon that uncertainty because of the role that China plays in the world as a customer and as a source of currency and everything else,” he said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.