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Vegas Casino Boss Bets Heavily Against Dems

5 years ago
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Flamboyant, controversial Las Vegas casino owner Steve Wynn wants to tip the odds against what he calls Obama's "socialism lite" agenda.

The chairman of Wynn Resorts Ltd., which operates casinos in Nevada and Macau, China, announced this week that he plans to throw himself into defeating Democratic candidates in the 2010 midterm elections. His comments called to mind the powerful political apparatus he built in the 1990s as part of his Mirage Resorts that registered thousands of voters and poured millions of dollars into the coffers of Wynn's favored candidates. Indeed, he indicated he may establish a Wynn Resorts Political Action Committee.

In 1994, Wynn declared, "We're in the political business now," and set about building a formidable political machine that funded candidates and gaming lobbyists throughout the country. With polling, voter registration, and get-out-the-vote canvassing operations as sophisticated as any national political party, Wynn was soon considered the most powerful figure in the state of Nevada. "Steve Wynn's control over politicians is all-encompassing,'' a former Las Vegas City Council member told The New York Times in 1998. ''It's overwhelming. Either you work for him or he tries to get you out of office.''

In addition to hosting fundraisers at his lavish resorts, he can be expected to provide campaign information to his 14,000 employees and their families. While he can't dictate how his employees will vote, in previous election cycles he issued a voter guide with stars next to the names of his preferred candidates.

Wynn has been on the talk-show circuit in recent weeks, accusing Obama of mishandling the economy and claiming government work programs foster communism. While highly critical of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Wynn, a Republican, had warm words for Nevada's senior senator, Democratic Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid. "My friend of 40 years will protect Americans from this kind of foolishness," Wynn told the Las Vegas Review Journal. "Remember, Harry is a conservative Democrat from Searchlight."

Rival casino executives at MGM Mirage and Harrah's Entertainment were quick to respond that Wynn's opinions were not reflective of all Las Vegas casino operators. Meanwhile, under the gamblers-usually-stick-together rule of thumb, Michael and Sharon Ensign -- the casino-owning parents of scandal-ridden Nevada Republican Sen. John Ensign -- each donated the maximum $4,800 to Reid's re-election campaign, according to federal filings. Onetime rivals, the two Nevada senators formed a "nonaggression pact" in 2000 to focus on the interests of their home state. With gambling the leading industry of the state, such bi-partisanship is nothing new when it comes to Strip politics.

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