Betting the House

With a gold mine to prtect, Wynn has led Vegas in a swing to the right–away from Clinton’s proposed gambing tax


Steve Wynn: 54, Las Vegas, Nev. $54,000. Party: R

Steve Wynn was just another ambitious young casino executive, running the Golden Nugget in Las Vegas, when he hooked up with junk-bond king Michael Milken in the late 1970s. The financial community had avoided Vegas for decades because of its mafia ties, but Milken drove his firm, Drexel Burnham Lambert, right into the middle of it. Wynn and Milken shared a strong belief in family values: It was Wynn’s Mirage Resorts (financing: Milken) that pioneered the casino-as-family-vacation theme.

Other events in Wynn’s life are reminiscent of Martin Scorsese’s Casino. First, one of his vice presidents was discovered meeting with organized crime leaders in New York. (This didn’t keep Wynn from returning to the East Coast with a failed bid to build a huge casino in Bridgeport, Conn.) In the interval, Wynn’s daughter was kidnapped. After Wynn paid the $1.45 million ransom, she was returned.

President Clinton has promoted a 4 percent federal gambling tax and floated the idea for a federal commission to study the effects of gambling on society. For these reasons, the gambling community–traditionally supportive of Democrats–has swung to the right. Wynn led the charge, raising $500,000 last summer at a Dole fundraiser. And he has an entire state rolling the dice behind him: A study by New Hampshire Citizen Action shows that Nevada residents have donated $398,615 to the Dole campaign–roughly eight times more than New Hampshire, a state with about the same population and site of the first presidential primary.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.

THE BIG QUESTION...

as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate

We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.