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Wynn Explains Change Of Heart in Pokerstars Deal

Written On  4/7/11 By Emily Apontif :

"I had only misconceptions...." says erstwhile online poker opponent.

Steve Wynn, the owner of Wynn Resorts and a central figure in that company’s recently announced partnership deal with online gambling giant Pokerstars, has expanded on his change of heart from being an opponent of online poker to a supporter of the industry.

Speaking to Nathan Vardi of Forbes Magazine this week, Wynn said that he previously had only misconceptions about online poker.

"I thought it would be difficult to regulate, and if the Internet people got in trouble it would bring the wrath of the government down on us in the live gaming community out here in Las Vegas. I didn't see the business opportunity, I just saw problems, he said."

Then he was approached by the Democratic Party Nevada Senator Harry Reid, Wynn recalls.

"Harry Reid called me and said, 'Steve, there are millions of people playing poker, and it's as American as apple pie. I want my office to look into this and see if we can regulate it.'

"Harry and I have been friends for 40-odd years, we ran marathons together. . . . And I got contacted by the people at PokerStars, who asked, 'Why are you not interested in this? Take a minute and learn the truth about this.'

"That began my exposure to that company and that business and what they do, and I have to tell you I was shocked."

Wynn explained that he had had no idea on a number of aspects of online poker, such as Pokerstars being highly regulated in Europe, employing 1 300 highly skilled people with an average salary is $110,000.

"One of my concerns was about young people playing," said Wynn. "It turns out they have more control about young people playing than we do."

Wynn went on to rationalise the Pokerstars argument regarding the legality of online poker in the United States, namely that the Justice Department opinion is untested in the courts, and that at state level there have been rulings that poker is a game more of skill than of chance.

"I say there is a bit of sophistry here clearly," Wynn told the Forbes writer. "What difference does it make what PokerStars or the Justice Department says? The point is millions of people are playing poker, and they are going to continue to play poker legally or illegally."

Wynn makes the surprising admission that he is not a technophobe, preferring to rely on his staff when it comes to computer and internet issues.

The land gambling mogul gives an interesting insight into his dealings with Pokerstars founder and owner Isai Scheinberg, who explained his motivation for a partnership by saying that Pokerstars had a multitude of American customers, and the company therefore wanted to "do it right".

Scheinberg apparently told Wynn: "I don't want to look over my shoulder at this point of my life."

Wynn responded by emphasising that he would only take his company into a putative online gambling venture if it was legalised at federal level, and if it was a 50-50 deal.

"I know that as a nonbeliever I was convinced by the logic of the argument," Wynn said. "And when I learn something and change my mind I may have the naive notion that other people might be enlightened by the facts themselves."

But he ended on a cautionary note, warning that his conversion "...doesn't mean I am right, especially in Washington."



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