Wynn CEO Talks UAE, New York City and Macau

Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings (l.) used a first-quarter earnings call to discuss the company’s planned $2 billion resort in United Arab Emirates, as well as prospects in New York City and Macau.

Wynn CEO Talks UAE, New York City and Macau

Architect picked for UAE project; Wynn interested in New York City

Craig Billings, CEO of Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macau, made wide-ranging comments on the operator’s upcoming $2 billion integrated resort project in the United Arab Emirates, as well as the company’s potential plans for New York City and Macau, during a first-quarter conference call last week.

The Wynn Resorts UAE project encompasses a massive resort with a casino on Al Marjan Island in Ras Al Khaimah on the Arabian Gulf, a tourist destination in the emirate. It will be the first facility to offer gaming in the Muslim nation. (Caesars Entertainment operates a non-casino hotel resort in Dubai, where officials recently confirmed there are no plans to authorize gaming.)

The resort, on 29 million square feet of reclaimed land on the man-made island, will include a 424,000-square-foot casino, a 1,000-plus-room hotel, high-end shopping mall, state-of-the-art meeting and convention facility, a spa, 10 restaurants and lounges, and an entertainment facility.

“We have moved quickly to our design on our project in the UAE, and I grow more excited about the opportunity with each iteration of that design,” Billings said on the conference call. “The island, which is really a blank canvas for us, presents amazing opportunities to do what we do best, from offshore large-scale water and light spectacles akin to the Lake of Dreams (at Wynn Las Vegas) to a room product that takes advantage of the unique aspects of the beachside setting. I’m confident we’re going to deliver something special to a market that is accustomed to paying a premium for luxury experiences.”

As for potential competition to the new casino, Billings said, “I can’t really opine what the other emirates may do with regards to legalization. That’s in their hands. I would point out that we not only compete, but punch up well above our weight, in the most competitive market in the world in Las Vegas. Our underwriting of that opportunity presumed there would be competition, but I can’t tell you that we know of any now.”

HKS Architects have been named to develop the concept and design of a project. HKS is the architect behind the newly opened NUSTAR Resort & Casino in the Philippines, as well as the Venetian Macau and a revamp of Resorts World Sentosa.

“It is a huge honor to be part of a development that will have such an impact and create an array of opportunities that go far beyond the tourism sector,” said Kevin Underwood, master planning & design principal of HKS Architects, in an interview with Asia Gaming Brief. “We will bring our global expertise and wealth of experience in luxury hotels and resorts to design something truly unique, sustainable and befitting of this new era of tourism focused on quality and one-of-a-kind guest experiences.”

Billing also used the investor call to address plans for Macau and a potential bid for New York City. He said the company is reassessing its future Macau development opportunities amid Macau’s current slump and move away from VIP clientele. The second phase of an expansion project is currently on hold due to the lingering Covid-19 pandemic.

“We’ve seen, throughout the course of Covid, new customers coming to Macau with different customer motivations than perhaps historically we’ve seen—shopping motivation, leisure motivation and things like that,” Billings said.

“Part of the reason that’s the case is because Hong Kong hasn’t been accessible, but that really piques our interest when we think about what the future development of Macau might be from a non-gaming perspective. Now, we are under no illusion that we are talking about a Las Vegas-style non-gaming market; it’s just a very, very different dynamic, but the ability to adapt and change our business as the market adapts is a very interesting incremental investment opportunity.”

As for New York City, Billings said the operator may be interested in bidding for one of the three gaming licenses available there, commenting that Wynn is interested in “any gateway city that is conducive to the scale and quality of development that Wynn Resorts does. We’re interested in New York and we’re active there. We’re not in a position yet to talk about anything in particular.”

Wynn reported operating revenues were $953.3 million for the first quarter, an increase of $216.7 million, from $736.7 million for the first quarter of 2021. Adjusted property earnings were $177.6 million for the first quarter, compared to $58.9 million in the first quarter of 2021.

In Las Vegas, Billings says the Wynn and Wynn Tower Suites have begun extensive renovations that will touch-up more than 2,500 rooms, lobbies, and common areas, in what the company is calling their “most extensive design evolution ever.” The large-scale redesign is set for completion in June, and will include new room designs, furniture, lighting, artwork, and more. Wynn executives describe the new designs as “dramatic, intimate and sophisticated.”

Meanwhile, Billings noted that the company does not expect any exposure to other lawsuits associated with Wynn Macau and junket operator Dore Entertainment Company Ltd.

Last November, the Court of Final Appeal considered Wynn Macau as jointly liable alongside the junket operator for the repayment of deposits stolen by a former junket employee. That ruling required to pay the employee approximately US$1.2 million, inclusive of accumulated interest.

Billings also revealed plans to revamp its former VIP rooms at its two Macau properties and is holding three undeveloped land parcels to “expand (its) business considerably” in Macau over time.