The truth about Harry’s Vegas host: Steve Wynn was barred from running casino over ‘Mafia links’ and drug dealing (and don’t ask about the naked girl who died on his boat trip)

  • Encore Wynn owner Steve Wynn  has never  shaken off accusations that he was linked to the mobsters
  • The tycoon is believed to be worth $2.5  billion
  • Wynn himself has vigorously denied any  involvement with the Mob

By Tom Leonard

PUBLISHED:16:15 EST, 31  August 2012| UPDATED:18:00 EST, 31 August 2012

A royal time: Las Vegas 'King' Steve Wynn, pictured here with his wife Andrea, has been under investigation in the past for a number of alleged offencesA royal time: Las Vegas ‘King’ Steve Wynn, pictured here  with his wife Andrea, has been under investigation in the past for a number of  alleged offences

They say it’s a rare man who walks away from  Las Vegas with nothing to regret, and as Prince Harry counts the cost of his  escapades in Sin City, he may be coming to regret the day he ever made the  acquaintance of Steve Wynn.

Wynn, the self-proclaimed King of Las Vegas,  is the billionaire owner of the five-star Encore Wynn resort, the opulent  hotel-casino in whose eight-room, £5,100-a-night suite the prince was  photographed playing strip billiards.

Unsubstantiated reports this week have  suggested that cocaine was snorted in the suite, and that a known prostitute was  among the guests.

There are even rumours of a video tape  capturing the night’s events. So how did the third-in-line to the throne come to  meet — even befriend — a septuagenarian gambling mogul?

Steve Wynn, a flamboyant showman with a  surgically-enhanced, wrinkle-free face, carefully coiffed hair, a volcanic  temper and a trophy wife, is famous for befriending celebrities whose patronage  would be good for business.

Last November, 70-year-old Wynn was spotted  having dinner with the prince in one of his Vegas steakhouses while the Prince  was enjoying a weekend break from an advanced helicopter training course in  Arizona.

Waiving the bills of celebrities is common  practice in Vegas, and it remains unclear who paid the estimated £30,000 bill  for Harry’s recent stay. According to Wynn’s spokesman, the tab was not picked  up by either the tycoon or his hotel.

Is the prince welcome to return? ‘I can’t see  why not,’ the spokesman said.

Wynn is unlikely to be perturbed by Harry’s  naked shenanigans, but if drugs do turn out to have been involved, he may  swiftly seek to distance himself from the events. He may be Las Vegas’s most  revered casino owner, but he still has his gambling licence — and his reputation — to think about.

It is a reputation that Wynn is eager to  protect. He has worked hard to erase the stains of the past.

Today, he is widely credited as the man who  single-handedly ‘cleaned up’ Vegas and made it into a place in which Wall Street  could invest and young families could holiday (if parents don’t mind their  children collecting the prostitutes’ calling cards which litter the pavement).

Yet for all his denials, Wynn, who is worth  $2.5 billion, has never shaken off accusations that he was linked for many years  to the mobsters who once ruled Las Vegas.

Quiet little trip: Prince Harry in a pool with a friend  during his stay at Wynn’s exclusive Encore resort


He has weathered successive U.S.  investigations over everything from drug-dealing to money-laundering, and has  never been found to have committed any wrong-doing.

In Britain, the authorities have proved  harder to convince. When he tried to open a casino in London to exploit the  influx of rich Arabs in the early Eighties, Scotland Yard denied him a  licence.  But in the desert city of Las Vegas, he remains a swaggering  icon. He has a reputation for being ‘sophisticated’ — but that’s by Vegas  standards.

This is a man who bought Impressionist  masterpieces … only to hang them on the walls of his casinos; who reputedly blew  his finger off while playing with a gun given to him by a former Mob hitman, and  who boasts that his wife Andrea has ‘the greatest butt in the world’.

Money is no object. In 2005, Wynn sank $2.7  billion into building just one hotel — the curved glass and steel Wynn Las  Vegas. He then did the same again a few years later with the Encore.

So enamoured is he with the idea of himself  as Sin City royalty that he arranged his wedding last year to coincide with that  of Prince William and Kate Middleton.

Hollywood star Clint Eastwood was best man  and lingerie model Caprice a bridesmaid. The reception, held in the ballroom of  Wynn’s Encore resort, boasted a 500-strong guest list which included Sylvester  Stallone, Steven Spielberg, Lionel Richie, Sir Philip Green and Celine Dion.

After partying in Necker, Prince Harry’s group moved on  to Las Vegas, where this photograph was taken. The prince’s friend Tom Inskip is  pictured on the right


Each guest left with a five-inch high replica  of the tiered wedding cake, but it’s unlikely Wynn or his rake-thin new wife  enjoyed much of the banquet. Both are vegans, and the youth-obsessed Wynn, who  exists on a diet of vitamin pills, liquidised walnuts and the occasional  indulgent dribble of olive oil, boasts that he still has a 32in  waistline.

After years of hard graft and  wheeler-dealing, he has earned the right to behave as he wishes. The son of an  East Coast bingo parlour operator and hardened gambler, the brash and handsome  Wynn Jnr expanded the family business to Las Vegas with a string of clever  investments and ambitious hustling.

In the Seventies and Eighties, when Wynn was  building his empire, Las Vegas was full of the mobsters who had originally built  its gambling industry.

Some say it was impossible to work in the  city and not come into contact with mafiosi, even unwittingly. Others have  suggested that, even so, Wynn had an unusually large number of brushes with the  Mob.

Wynn himself has vigorously denied any  involvement with the Mob, and none of the numerous law enforcement  investigations for gambling licences have ever concluded that he worked for or  with organised crime.

Games room: Suites like this one at the Wynn Hotel in Vegas, used by Harry, have a pool table, which they used for a game of strip billiards

Games room: Suites like this one at the Wynn Hotel in  Las Vegas, which could be the same as Harry’s, each have a pool table used for  the infamous game of strip billiards

In 1967, he was with some business  associates of noted mobsters on a private yacht cruise on a lake in  Nevada  when a naked young woman somehow fell over the back of the boat  and was chopped  almost in half by the propeller blades. Her death  prompted an investigation,  but everyone on board denied having seen the  incident.

And he had trouble with officials in Atlantic  City, New Jersey, in 1986 after investigators discovered mobster Tony  Castelbuono, a friend of Wynn, was laundering the profits of heroin trafficking  at his gambling tables. Wynn almost lost his gambling licence.

Today, such tales of the Mob are just water  under the bridge. Wynn has re-invented himself as the business genius who  demolished seedy gambling joints along the Vegas Strip and replaced them with  slick hotel-casinos such as the Mirage (the city’s first 3,000-bed hotel), the  Treasure Island and the Bellagio.

Part of his success has been his ability to  turn on the charm with important people. But Wynn is notorious, too, for his  temper. In 1991, he reached an out-of-court settlement for an undisclosed sum  with the former president of Wynn’s Golden Nugget casino, who described Wynn as  a womanising, brutal boss.

In allegations made in documents lodged at  court, it was said that he would get so angry that his ‘eyes bulged and he  started screaming at the top of his lungs and banging his head on the  table’.

Breathtaking: The room used by Harry will have had stunning views of the Vegas strip, like this oneBreathtaking: The room used by Harry will have had  stunning views of the Vegas strip, like this one

Rich and famous: The three bedroom duplex suite costs up to $5,000 per night to rentRich and famous: The three bedroom duplex suite costs  thousands of dollars per night to rent


There was no admission of liability by Wynn,  who denied the allegations.

His mother Zelma claims his tyrannical  behaviour is the result of frustration over his failing  eyesight.

The tycoon suffers from retinitis  pigmentosa, a progressive genetic disease that effectively gives him  tunnel  vision by destroying his ability to see peripheral images. In a  dark room, he  is completely blind.

His vision may be failing, but for  years he  was infamous for his roving eye, keeping keys to empty rooms at his various  hotels for trysts. He was known to favour his female  blackjack  croupiers.

All that came to a stop when he met  the  beautiful Mrs Wynn. Usually described as a ‘British socialite,  48-year-old  Andrea was, in fact, born in New York but, as her proud  husband likes to  stress, was raised in England and France. Tres  sophistique.

It all sounds rather less chic when  you  learn that the family moved to France because her father, a  wheeler-dealer  named Victor Danenza, fled there in 1976 to escape an FBI fraud investigation.

Before becoming the second Mrs Wynn,  Andrea  had lived in London with her first husband, Texan banker Robert  Hissom, a  former polo-playing friend of Prince Charles.

She met Wynn in 2008 in St Tropez,  where he  keeps a yacht, and the couple began a very public romance. Wynn divorced  his  long-suffering first wife Elaine, after 46 years of  marriage, and wed  Andrea last year.

Prince Harry plays with companions in a swimming pool in  Las Vegas. Naked pictures of the prince have been viewed by more than 40million  people across the globe

Elaine made around $740 million from the  settlement — one of the biggest payouts in U.S. divorce history. The costly  divorce appears not to have troubled Mr Wynn, who is delighted with his new  wife.

‘It’s like God made a woman for me,’ he once  said, before pointing out the part of his wife he most admired — ‘the greatest  butt in the world’.

It all goes to show that money can buy you  neither taste nor manners. Even Wynn’s attempts to acquire a collection of old  masterpieces have invited accusastions that he was vulgar and greedily  acquisitive.

He has, since the late Nineties, spent  hundreds of millions of dollars on paintings by Picasso and Degas, Caravaggio  and Titian. He has several times scooped the world’s great galleries at auction,  only to horrify the art world by hanging his purchases in his casinos.

At 70, he shows no sign of slowing down — though controversy continues to dog him. He is embroiled in a three-year court  battle with Joe Francis, founder of the soft-porn video empire Girls Gone  Wild.

In documents lodged at court, Francis claims  Wynn threatened — in an email — that he would kill him over a  $2 million  gambling debt. Wynn is alleged to have written that he would hit Francis ‘in the  back of the head with a shovel’.

Wynn denies the allegations and claims no  such email exists

Pictures taken during Prince Harry’s stay on the island  of Necker were posted on Facebook by his friend Arthur Landon  (left). Cressida  Bonas (right), whom the prince is said to have dated,  was also on the  trip

In Asia, where Wynn now earns 70 per cent of  his profits from the gambling mecca of Macau, a resort on the South China Sea,  he is embroiled in a battle with a former business partner, Kazuo  Okada.

This week, Okada sued Wynn for $140 million  for libel after each accused the other of paying bribes within the Asian  gambling industry.

No amount of black marble and old masters can  hide the sleaziness at the heart of Las Vegas. It  is hard to believe Wynn when he claims he could just as easily have gone into  family theme parks if Walt Disney hadn’t done it first.

Indeed, it seems about as likely as Prince  Harry settling for free entry to Sleeping Beauty’s Castle rather than a weekend  with his colourful acquaintances in Sin City

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Categories: Extremism, Societal, Strange Behavior - Of Leadership Roles

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