Elaine Wynn

The woman whose name literally looms large in Las Vegas discusses business, pleasure and whether her ex-husband is really moving to Macau

As the wife and business partner of Steve Wynn, Elaine Wynn has had an outsize role in Las Vegas’ evolution from a gaming-centric destination to a city of resorts that cater to every whim. From the opening of The Mirage to the expansion of Wynn Resorts into Macau, Wynn has had a front-row seat, even after divorcing her husband in 2009 for the second time. Since the completion of the Encore in late 2008, she has focused on charity work, including being an advocate for education in Nevada an accepting an appointment to the board of trustees of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in business?

I would remind them not to make decisions based on money, but always make decisions based on things that have higher value. What ultimately will make you happy? And focus on the importance of good character. You cannot replace values that will dictate how you act as you live your life with integrity.

How do you maintain your individuality while being part of such a famous couple?

I think everyone is born into this world with unique talents and skills. And if we pay attention and try to continue to educate ourselves in the things that are important to us, we all have contributions to make. That’s what I have done my entire life, whether married or unmarried. I’m an individual, I’m unique just like everyone else, and I try to make a contribution that fulfills me while at the same time benefits others.

How do you feel about being a role model for women in Las Vegas?

I think that’s the highest form of a compliment. When I was a very young girl, I was asked what’s the best contribution you can make to society and my answer was to set a good example. I think if people look to you as a role model, obviously you’re setting a good example in some fashion and that makes me very proud and very happy.

What is your best Vegas moment?

I’ve had so many wonderful, fulfilling moments watching the city evolve and grow, so there were a couple of periods that are benchmarks for me. One was a significant period of growth at UNLV, and I suppose it was during the 1990s when business was wonderful and people were embracing the value of the university in their community. [They] were rallying around and causing it to expand and become the great resource to all the people here who wanted to improve themselves, improve their careers, change careers. I found that very satisfying. And then, of course, the ultimate benchmark professionally, I would have to say, was the opening of The Mirage, which I think ushered in the period that we’re enjoying now, which was the notion of the ultra-luxurious destination resort complex in Las Vegas after which so many hotels patterned themselves.

What is a single truth about Las Vegas?

That Las Vegas seems to allow people to lose some of their inhibitions and gives them an opportunity to relax, have fun, perhaps indulge a bit more than they would normally in their home environment, but when they return to their so-called normal life they’ve had a chance to blow off steam and hopefully not do any damage.

How do you blow off steam?

I prefer to go to places that are more natural and wholesome, like the mountains or even to go to cities and indulge in museums and theater. And I like to take advantage of things elsewhere that are not offered here, but I especially love to go to the mountains. I love to ski and hike. I love the peace and solitude of places that are quieter. That serves to recharge me.

Will we lose Steve to Macau?

We are a global company, like lots of companies in America now, and there is a wonderful benefit to having resources in more than one location. I would suggest that because the opportunity is more vital there right now, that’s where our focus is at the moment. But we oversee a large company that’s in two locations. We’re mindful that we have an obligation, a responsibility and a desire to favor both of them.

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