Steve Wynn is a very interesting character. He is a visionary, whose limited eyesight seems not to hinder, but to focus. He is the disputed king of modern Las Vegas, but his kingdom is a restless place, filled with flashy concrete and glass veins, through which flow the bedazzled cash giving clients of America’s favorite Sin City. Christina Binkley’s new book, Winner Takes All, doesn’t provide an expose of Wynn and the other architects of Las Vegas, but rather provides a fly-on-the-wall viewpoint of these very human, larger-than-life moguls.
Binkley, a columnist for the Wall Street Journal, spent ten years covering Las Vegas, giving her insider access to these titans of gaming industry and insight into their personal visions. The book focuses on the three men who currently own and control most of what most people think of when they think of Las Vegas: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, and Gary Loveman.
Steve Wynn is the center of the work. Binkley must have spent a great deal of time with Wynn, as his portrayal is the most personal. Here he recounts a near-disaster from the opening days of the Mirage, the first modern casino resort, that features a giant volcano near the entrance that erupts in a fiery display each evening:
"There were some kids and they were drinking and they were all excited and wanted to be macho, so one of them walks across the grass and climbs in the water. He's standing there up to his waist," Wynn says. The volcano was scheduled to erupt any moment in gas bubbles and flames. "He's about to get third-degree burns in his crotch."
Wynn is portrayed somewhat harshly early on in the work, but then he is redeemed by the end of the book, not for a change in the perception of his personality, but rather from the creative force he embodies that has transformed Vegas.