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Wynn and Encore: Paradise Regained

By JohnH on Thursday, 24th July 2014 12:03pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 22

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A little over three years ago, I had an experience that made me lose my faith in the promise of Wynn and Encore. Marilyn Winn Speigel had embarked on a recession-fueled crusade of cost and corner-cutting across my most favorite of properties that resulted in a stay at Wynn where excrement, almost poetically, spewed into my room and sent me into a state of grief, anger, and depression over paradise now lost.

I, like many members of the VegasTripping team at that time, was Vegas homeless; wandering through the city nearly blind, unable to savor the sensation of the city as I once had. Sure, I enjoyed trips, had memorable experiences, stayed at new hotels, and even returned to Wynn and Encore; however, for those three years, it just wasn't the same. The bloom had fallen off the rose.

Until, that is, I returned to Encore one month ago. The property shined in a way that I hadn't seen in over four years. Staff - from the front desk agent who spent nearly thirty minutes of her time ensuring that my two-room upgrade to Tower Suites would go off without a hitch to Danny, the Encore pit boss, who remembered my name and drink preference six months after I had last played in his pit - were welcoming, engaging, and delivering unparalleled service. I somehow, after five years, even found some surprises at Encore. The nightclubs were unobtrusive, or at least as unobtrusive as they can be. The property was positively radiant.

And then I witnessed something that I hadn't seen since Encore opened in 2008. Steve Wynn was on-property during the time I was there; in and of itself, not a remarkable occurrence. However, I saw him lunching at Country Club and energetically enthralling his guests with stories about the property. He was walking the property and holding court at Andrea's. You could tell that he was proud of his Las Vegas property and that's something that we, arguably, haven't seen or heard in a long time. It was refreshing.

Now, I could end here and tell you how those moments reaffirmed my love of the property, but this trip didn't stop with great customer service moments and brief glimpses of The Steve Wynn Show.

However, it didn't end there.

Before I left the property at the end of my stay, I grabbed a quick lunch at Tableau and who should I encounter walking through the Wynn casino but Roger Thomas himself. We exchanged pleasantries, I thanked him for everything he's contributed to Las - and my personal sense of design - and we talked at length about the design evolution of Wynn Palace and modern chinoiserie. Not wanting to keep him, I thanked him for his time and he flashed those steel blue eyes at me. If I hadn't fallen back in love with the property up until that point, my fate was now sealed.

I'll be the first to acknowledge that this was a rare - even by the standards of the Wynn glory days of 2005-2007 - trip to Wynn and Encore; one defined by serendipity and outright luck. But it was a reaffirming and revelational trip nonetheless. At the end of my stay, I departed the Encore Tower Suites with a renewed optimism around and hope for Wynn and Encore. Things are finally better. The public spaces shine with a regained élan. The Sinatra Smashes are stronger. The perfumed air even sweeter than it ever was. Even the Popeye statue doesn't suck.

Paradise is found again.



Tagged: wynn   steve wynn show   encore   roger thomas   



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Comments & Discussion:

The return to glory should be most attributed to Maurice Wooden's rise to top dog. A longtime Wynn disciple, he has risen through the ranks and really understands both service and brand like few resort presidents before him.

^ an excellent point

JohnH, what an amazing piece. That first paragraph alone....

Something is definitely afoot. As minor as this example may seem: I went shopping for an Encore butterfly blouse (a request from home) and a gift shop employee led me to the appropriate section of the store, explaining that although they had butterfly prints, the logo now says "Wynn." She explained that "Mr. Wynn" had decided to focus on the Wynn "brand."

This almost insignificant revelation made me realize right then: The Steve was back in The House. Honestly, I think my heart may have skipped a beat. Maybe.

Very pleased to hear this as Encore is my favorite resort. Thanks for the update

Correction: Second paragraph....

And there's something about your picture of Popeye -- the lighting or the way the golden areas match the Esplanade corridor & ceiling... amazingly it does not suck.

Wonderful. You expressed so much better than I could my feelings on Wynn Las Vegas after almost seven years away. I'm still not sure about Popeye, however.

Interesting comment about Maurice Wooden. I know nothing about him other than he was at Golden Nugget for some time.

Very interesting to (finally) here some positives on VT about W/E.
I too saw the change under MWS and discussed it at length with many staff members whom I have developed a relationship with over my 30+ Wynn stays. I am glad I never had to endure the ultimate insult that you did John with the sewage back-up.
However, after many stays at Bellagio and Aria SS, I have come to realize W/E TS is still the best game in town. Even with the restaurant changes, the clubs, the (extreme) high limit bias for comps etc., W/E is the classiest and most enjoyable joint on the strip.
I can't help but wonder how much Steve's ill advised political ravings affected many of the VT crew's outlook on his properties. At least there is-was a subliminal bias.
I just got back 2 weeks ago and it's never been better. Well, I've had better gambling results.

Malibugolfer - in response to your first statement, I went through and scanned all the 'Wynn' tagged articles in the news feed. Other than calling out weird mathematics in Wynn's offers and making fun of Nick Hissom, posts about Wynn / Encore have been almost exclusively positive over the last 16 months. Look for yourself.

Regarding politics, any VT reader should know that our love or distaste of a property has zero to do with political puffery spewed by their CEO. I couldn't tell you what the VT staff's political views are, primarily because the only thing we talk about when we're together (or during the 24/7 text message thread) is Vegas.

Wynn / Encore had a culture breakdown when Steve and Elaine divorced, you could see the shift in the faces of staff and also the massive defection of high level executives - Elaine Wynn, Andrew Pascal, Victor Drai, Jen Dunne... even Roger Thomas "retired" for a while. The focus became lean and operations stagnated... he gave the keys to nightclub punks, who acted like they were responsible for the entirety of the Wynn experience.

It took Marquee and Hakkasan kicking them in the balls for Steve to remember that the resort experience is the reason why real rollers come to Wynn and stay at Wynn. He's redoubled on service, design, offering upgrades and focus. Progress has been made and we've noted this in various posts over the last year.

Encore's casino *feels* like EBC/Surrender's vestibule. I adored the classy, jewel like serenity of Encore's casino in the first year of opening, there truly was no place I would rather be on the entire planet. I accept that business needs change and public taste brings different attractions and that I'm not the same person I was 5-10 years ago. Encore's casino used to feel like an supremely high end, classically luxurious yet avant garde opium den. Now - I can't really believe i'm going to say this - it has about all of the staying power of the Flamingo's food court. When I'm there, I don't hang out, I head to a destination then split.

Encore's casino wasn't designed for the morass of club traffic, and thusly feels choked and constricting. I'll bet Roger, Steve and DeRuyter would agree with me... they've been tinkering with club egress plans for years, without ever solving it.

I find delicious amusement in your blaming of Obama for our past opinions on Wynn & Encore.

I hope one day EBC/Surrender becomes an extension of the Encore pool, maybe an Encore Tower pool. II still can't believe they had the balls to breakdown the most beautiful atrium Vegas had, the Encore atrium, to build that horrendous club.

Chuck, thanks for your, as always, erudite explanation. I so totally agree with "Wynn / Encore had a culture breakdown when Steve and Elaine divorced, you could see the shift in the faces of staff and also the massive defection of high level executives - Elaine Wynn, Andrew Pascal, Victor Drai, Jen Dunne... even Roger Thomas "retired" for a while. The focus became lean and operations stagnated... he gave the keys to nightclub punks, who acted like they were responsible for the entirety of the Wynn experience. " and I think I made that clear.
However, saying something like "blaming Obama" is really a comment way beneath your otherwise professional approach. Perhaps your anti-Wynn politics had nothing to do with your viewpoints. There were certainly many and valid reasons to find some fault with TheSteve. But it really did seem, and I read everything on your well done site, that you led a charge of hugely pro W/E to anti in surprisingly short order that also had negative Wynn comments built in. Maybe not. I'm glad to see you post John's article and it does represent an example of open minded reportage.
BTW, I was raised a Harry Truman Democrat, have been a registered one all my life but, most importantly, like you and your crew, just want to do Vegas.
Keep on keepin' on.

I am so happy. I only had one stay at the Wynn in 2009 and it was awesome. Even saw Mr. Wynn. My favorite place in Las Vegas.

Steve Wynn's politics will be a deal breaker to some. I personally see him as like an attention-craving Adelson these days, and there's enough choices in town that I don't need to add to his fortune. But that's not going to be the case with everyone.

I still like Paris, but think CET is practically an investor scandal waiting to erupt by this point. I think what you saw on VT was people who liked WLV but didn't like to see a guy they were increasingly less fond of hiring the wrong people, and putting his personal weight on bad ideas. The short lived GeoCities website fiasco, the extra focus on clubs, and crap like Andrea's all exists because of either Steve or people he put in power that shouldn't be there. Some of these executives appeared in the smoke of his remarrying, and his getting his business partner out and solidifying his power over the company.

Steve Wynn built some great resort buildings, but after the building is done he often gets a lot of credit that is actually owed to various executives and department managers. He can't run the operation by himself, so hills and valleys will align with what kind of people work for him.

I agree with Chuck that the casino in Encore doesn't inspire you to gamble there. I wandered into it and got the impression it was an afterthought which I didn't get inside Wynn. Steve's politics to annoy me but not as much as Adelson's. My fondest memories of Encore remains watching workers staple the grass into the ground before the opening as the New Frontier was being demolished as soon as possible to not take away from Steve's new toy.

I actually think the Encore casino is the most beautiful that Wynn has designed yet. It is similar to Wynn Macau but better in many ways; it feels more open and less confusingly laid-out. It is of course much smaller but it is a gorgeous casino. Too bad the table minimums for good blackjack rules are $100 per hand and the comps are tight - take me back to Aria/Bellagio please.

Wynn's politics, well yes any strong political statement from any entrepreneur runs the risk of alienating some potential customers. I have some disagreements with Wynn's expressed political sentiments as well as some agreements with them, but frankly I find his political stances vastly more preferable to Adelson's political activities as of late. Not to mention the fact that Wynn's low-limit blackjack is vastly preferable to Adelson's (8d H17 6:5 vs 6d H17 3:2? The latter wins easily), and his comps are less tight too.

@Malibugolfer, thanks for the reasoned & measured response. Yes, The Steve really rocked the boat with some very distracting decisions both personal and business. The timing was coincidental even if they were, at least theoretically, unrelated. Now, by all signs he's back (if he ever really left). As mikech says, it's a team effort and the CEO is a frontman. That's true anywhere. Point is, Wynn's focus seemed off during those years.

I'm not at all surprised when Chuck says the VT staff only ever discusses Vegas when they're together. It is this community's raison d'être and, when you get down to it, what else is there? ;-)

I (and I assume many) have tended to think of this place as a politics-free zone -- so much so, that I was initially hesitant to bring up in another thread my fandom of Chef Tom Colicchio's activism on certain social issues, as it was mostly irrelevant to the discussion at hand....

"Dum vivimus, vivamus!"

It is a beautiful place, and I've stayed there several times. However, my main interest is gaming, and it's just "too difficult" to make my money last in that place. I would only stay there again if I was taking a (female) guest who could appreciate the amenities and the scenery.

Can't say much more than anyone else - beautiful article, and one that put a smile on my face 2,000 miles away from my favorite casinos in Las Vegas.

They had to do something combat the legendary Andiamo meatball.

Wow, have not seen an article in VT get this many comments since the infamous "Leonard" days. I'm happy to hear that Wynncore is getting its mojo back. Perhaps now that the novelty of Andrea is wearing off, he is spending more time tending to business. Hopefully this renaissance is not a brief interlude before he gets totally immersed/distracted in Cotai, MA, divorce proceedings with Andrea, etc.

Superb article. I am happy to learn the EWC has improved/ it need to!
Chuck is spot on. The Encore casino was beautiful and alluring. When I was there 2 years ago it was nothing but a staging area for Surrender. There were virtually no gamblers there.
Steve Wynn did many fantastic things in his life. I personally think some of his political views are spot on. But it is irrelevant. His ego is unbridled. He has made the company all about him- rather than all about an experience. I am a gambler - an there are many better high end casinos for the gambler- better rules, better comps, more grateful out crews etc.
I am happy the experience is improving. But anyone who believes the EWC experience is heads and tails above other high end experiences on the strip is wrong.
Caesars new towers have larger rooms, MGM and Cosmo have more popular night clubs, Aria and Cosmo have better restaurants, Bellagio has a better high class pool experience.
Many of Steve's lieutenants are now decision makers at these other properties - and they can focus on their job because they are not so busy being self- important as Steve is.
It is no longer nearly as special as it once was. And if the high rollers move in and the club going young change allegiance it is gonna have a lot of empty space to fill.

You know? I can relate to this a little. The last time we went to Vegas we had a blast and it was great but there were times when we wondered around and were just kind of "blah" over everything as well. I don't know what it was. I kinda lost interest in the place and traveled elsewhere for a few years. BUT were totally ready to go back now. I'm ready to drive out there and hang and see everything new that's come along, stay in nice arsh hotels, nice beds, and eat at awesome restaurants.

just realized my above post was a bit deep. I meant I was bored with Vegas as a whole because, what Chuck described above with Steve giving keys to nightclub pumks, I felt the whole town had become like that. But yes, Chucks observations go great with the downing/revamp of the Wynn brand/service/etc

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