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How I Published Two Books at Age 14

This is the story of how I hacked two fiction books together and got them published at age 14. Not e-book publishing or self-publishing but real you-pay-nothing-we-send-you-royalty-checks publishing. I'm going to show you how you could easily do the same exact thing - plus why I'd now discourage it.
Google Randy Gingeleski Books
They haunt any Google searches for me.
In elementary school, I learned to write like everybody else did. But I fell in love with it -- as my chubby, nerdy 10-year-old self I would write all the time. My spare time just got consumed by it. I can vividly remember sitting in my bedroom, all dark except for just one desk lamp on, writing in solidarity. Always pencil to paper. I got callouses. What did I write? All sorts of ridiculous things, typically short stories. Always fiction and it would be about spaceships or dragons or robots, the culmination of who I was at that time. So in fifth grade I finally hunkered down and wrote some longer stuff. One manuscript was what would become The War of Lord Capani and the other was my own version of this story I was obsessed with as a kid, The Autobiography of Foudini M. Cat. Yes, I was really lame. That summer before middle school, I typed up Capani and started shopping it around to publishers. All the major ones, like Random House, turned me down. A bunch of smaller operations too. Eventually I sent it to this publisher PublishAmerica, now America Star Books. They wanted to put it out, and I was ecstatic. It was my childhood dream coming into realization. When they found out I was 10 years old, however, they quickly wanted nothing to do with me. The floppy disks and stacks of paper that made up the book would get stowed away in my closet. Despite what the local newspaper would write about my "story", that book was always sort of in the back of my mind. As I got older, I sort of thought of it as a golden ticket instead of a dream coming into fruition. My interests had changed, I dreaded any extracurricular writing, suddenly I wanted to be a filmmaker or a fighter pilot. In 8th grade, I decided enough time had passed to send the book back to that same publisher. Lo and behold, they accepted it again and this time I left out any business about being under 18. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.36.00 PM The book came out in November 2008, if I'm remembering correctly. I was now in high school. Family bought it, but that was as far as sales went initially. Then Publish America emailed and asked if they could set up a book signing. I thought that would be pretty neat, signing books in Barnes & Noble and whatever. They arranged a date. My mom got in touch with the school district's newsletter, seeing if they would put print something about it. They thought it was such a big deal that they passed the story along to the local newspaper. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.33.31 PM So, as a result of that, a lot of people actually turned up to this book signing. I met a lot of people I'd otherwise have never crossed paths with, a bunch of family and friends came out, and as a whole that was a good experience. I sold maybe 50 copies just that night. Beyond that, I had no idea how the book was selling because the publisher only tallied sales twice a year to send out royalty checks. Therefore - I quickly wrote and published another book. Another sloppy science-fiction title. Screen Shot 2014-09-24 at 5.34.49 PM The grand total I made off Capani ended up being about $200 for all time, and World's Something has literally never sold. I don't even have a single copy of it. God's honest truth. The thing about PublishAmerica (now America Star Books) is that they will publish anything. I get daily emails from them about both books, offering me sales prices to buy bulk or marketing services. For $100 they'll send a copy of my book to a local radio station. For $200 they'll put it at their booth for some expo. It's a sham.
America Star Books Royalty Statement
Typical.
I imagine they made a lot of money off the 100 - 200 Capani copies I sold. If you want to publish a book, send them something. It won't cost you anything upfront. But they will hold the rights to your work hostage, make zero marketing efforts, and overall not really care.
PublishAmerica America Star Books Spam
Daily spam.
Overall, and this will sound corny, but the experience was priceless to me. The book signing was neat, I got to speak at a local elementary school, and for about a month people recognized me in restaurants. I'm glad I didn't do any due diligence because then the whole ordeal might not have happened to begin with. A better idea if you want to publish today would be e-books. Amazon seems to have a solid platform. There are some really inspirational stories out. If that was around when I was first looking to be in the book business, that's how I probably would have done things.

An Open Letter About i-Gaming

A few days ago, I got a Linkedin invite to connect from a young guy like myself, looking for opportunities in the online gambling sector. He wanted to talk about what I was doing with Ging. When someone asks about my business, or about gaming in general, I have a tendency to preach. So this is the reply he got and I decided to make it an open letter. Plus a rant about an opposing company called oneLive. Now he's probably sorry he asked. :mrgreen: Hey [guy's name], Nice to meet you, it's cool you're looking for opportunities in the online gambling space. My "company" (it's just me right now) probably isn't what you have in mind. For example: - I will put odds on anything and everything if the statistics are favorable. I've designed a casino version of the old card game Rack-O. I've planned another offering based on algorithms from the safari zone of those old Gameboy Pokemon games. I have to make a version of keno that doesn't suck, then god-willing I'll do the same for slots. - Also I may throw a "bribe the dealer" side bet on every table game. - Although there are going to be all sorts of new games nobody's ever seen before, I will release odds and optimal gameplay strategy for everything. Extensive walkthroughs and tutorials. - Basically everything I collect for the backend, all those analytics, I will make public. Financials too. Any information I can reasonably release that contributes to the transparency and integrity of the operation. - Randomness will be based on atmospheric noise for absolutely everything. I'll probably use the http://www.random.org API forever because (1) PRNGs obviously aren't trustworthy and (2) maintaining my own TRNGs likely wouldn't match their quality, over time they degrade and become less random. - All bets will be provably fair. This is nothing new as it's the standard for bitcoin-based gaming. (See next point) May also have everything third-party verified. Nobody should doubt the casino's integrity. - The U.S. legislative process for online gambling is coming along at a slow, painful crawl. I'm going to base Ging Casino on bitcoin and have spent a lot of time poring over the actual laws surrounding online gambling and bitcoin itself. Still it's a legal gray area. - The design of the website is gorgeous, it's responsive, heavy HTML/CSS/JS. Little to nothing else development-wise if possible. People can play anywhere. - Finally, if by some miracle the stars align and Ging Casino is a success, I want to also put virtual-reality under the Ging Gaming umbrella. Not sure if you've heard of Riftsino (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lVSf_UzIZ0M). VR gambling will be huge. Actually that covers just about everything. I'm obsessed, fanatical, crazy about this stuff. [In this part of the letter I went on to trash-talk this company called oneLive. I said the guy that wrote me should join them because he has a strong informatics background they could benefit from. If those couple of guys at oneLive want to email me I'd be happy to tell them how to otherwise fix their company. Maybe they can make me eat my words later, but having on-property i-gaming with live dealers voids all of i-gaming's strengths - easy scalability, flawless 'dealer' procedure, opportunity for more games and more themes, and everything else I've covered before. What if the live dealer misdeals to a player? How is the player, across the property on his tablet, going to raise an issue? Are additional floor supers needed to monitor the live virtual dealers? This much additional manpower shouldn't be needed. If a resort guest wants a live dealer, he's more likely to go down to the physical casino. Maybe oneLive envisioned people sitting on the toilets in their hotel rooms, tapping away at blackjack from their iPhones. I don't know. The website says "increase table profits." Barely when you're doing things like this. It's carelessness. On-property is a great idea, a good 'legal loophole' at the moment. But doing it this way seems sloppy. Furthermore, and I know this is a whole mess of thoughts, but oneLive was founded in 2010? They're just now putting out a tangible product offering? What has everyone been doing over there? Fiddling around with online poker before totally changing the direction of the company? Do any of the team members have a background in the gaming industry, or at least an interest? Passion? Do they care? Personal opinions - I've never met Michael Jabara or Alexander Ramia. They can call me out right back if they want. It's easy to reach me. Why am I taking a jab at their operation? "oneLIVE inc goal is to become the real money mobile gaming powerhouse in the US, on the high seas and in the air." I'll take a jab at any competitor. Especially one that talks as big a game as that while not bothering to proofread their LinkedIn.] Regardless, good luck with your opportunity search. Best regards, Randy

How to Miss Out on Billions of Dollars

"So there I am, waiting forever for a cab. And I thought - what if I could just hit a button on my phone, a car comes and picks me up? What if you streamline the payment, tip, all that mess? I was really fired up about it. I wrote up this whole business plan when I got home, and I showed it to my buddy. He's like 'hey, you might really have something here!' But I was really busy with work at the time, I just never went further with it than that."
Last fall I heard that story. When I was more formally involved with the IgetCOMPED / Event Wizler enterprise, we used to have these fancy business dinners in the city with cool mixes of people. The guy that was telling us about this was a male model who had a side hustle of Brooklyn Airbnb rentals. I guess he was making decent money doing that, but I'll never forget his Uber story. If it's true, both story and time setting, then he came up with Uber in winter 2009. That's about when the real Uber was founded except his service would've started here in New York. Now it's worth somewhere between $6 billion and $17 billion.
(Image credit Photobucket)
I'm inclined to believe it because I have a similar story. Back in summer 2009, Riley, Jeff, and I essentially were poised to start something very much like Tumblr. It was going to be called CreationPad. A joke was even made when I put up the DGM website, which is sort of formatted like a "tumblelog". CreationPad Troll Ultimately none of us knew enough (web development, hosting, etc.) to produce it ourselves. We were going to pay some Indian company to make it but decided it was too much of a gamble. If you look at the record, the real Tumblr was launched in 2007. But none of us had heard of it at the time, and it certainly hadn't reached prominence yet. Who knows where "CreationPad" would've gone. Tumblr itself was acquired for $1.1 billion. I would find it hard to believe that there aren't more stories out there like this. How many billion-dollar ideas would've reached market even sooner if someone had followed through with an idea? Taken a big gamble? Cut out TV, video games, and sleep to attack a side project? How you miss out on billions of dollars, or at least some dollars, seems to be just living in a state of content. Settling.
"I'm really busy with my modeling career right now, that's going well, why gamble on some car service idea?" "We're young kids in school, why learn all this web development stuff and build some web app?"
Because I made that thing happen or I tried really hard to make that thing happen both make a better story than I thought about it.

Build A Cooking Show/Brand for Fun and Profit

I do a little bit of affiliate marketing. In the grand scheme of things, it's mostly on this site and I'm small-time compared to most Internet entrepreneurs. Especially sites and brands revolving around cooking. If you can gain a following, that category's really an affiliate marketing dream. You can monetize referrals for ingredients and tools (i.e. whenever you post a recipe). I can't help but think you could also work in referrals for appliances. Then say you travel, blog about it on your cooking site, and come up with some trip-inspired recipes. You can monetize the travel referrals. Start a complementary "cooking show" and you're opening up the business even more. A traffic loop is likely to form between your YouTube and website at that point, you can become a YouTube Partner to get ad money off the videos, then whenever you put out a new show you have even more reasons to update all your social media. Put out some cookbooks while you're at it. Maybe paid on Amazon, or maybe you give one away to readers who sign up for your email list. If you can build a successful cooking-related brand online, it seems to me like you've got it made in the affiliate marketing world. I can't speak from experience but this is coming at things analytically. There are just so many ways to generate revenue.
This is your affiliate income smashing through the ceiling of infinity dollars. (Source PushClickTouch)
So the question becomes how to go about gaining traction as a new online cooking brand. It's a crowded space. I can easily name half a dozen players from when I used to look up paleo recipes a lot (Nom Nom Paleo, PaleOMG, Stupid Easy Paleo, Elana's Pantry, Paleo Mama, Paleo Plan). And that's borderline niche.

Start with a brand

I would grab a catchy domain. Something like one of these, with kind of an "out there" brand-able nature:

Then gain a following

Naming a brand isn't hard, it's building a following. What can you do to set yourself apart? The Internet loves sex and violence. Bring those to cooking, even if it's just with some bikini girl Fiverr gigs. And hey - Craigslist.
This. With a more business-minded approach. (Source Funny or Die)
Epic Meal Time is popular because they're edgy with cooking. Remember, though, that you're more likely to make money off of affiliate marketing. Focus there. This means keeping your recipes somewhat practical (unlike sushi poutine) so readers might purchase ingredients and related items through your links. Social media is important to cooking brands online. It seems like most food bloggers are really active on Pinterest, Tumblr, and Instagram in addition to the given necessities of Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. To set yourself up for success as a fresh cooking brand, I might buy some followers to begin with. About 2,000 Twitter followers, Facebook likes, YouTube subscribers - the appropriate metrics. You could even use Fiverr for this too. The idea being that people are more likely to follow/like/subscribe if they see some other people have done it. Just enough to give the idea that you're new, but you're growing and could explode into the next big thing. So they should get on-board now and be cool. At that point you're all set up to succeed. What's left is creating content that people want to share. Put up some recipes and maybe a video, then perhaps interact with other chefs on social media or users who seem especially active with those accounts. Once you start a little bit of momentum, hopefully everything just snowballs for you. Maintain production quality. Keep pounding the pavement.
You might become a star. (Source All Things Target)
At the top of Success Mountain, you can post about your own brand of cookware... and affiliate link to it at the same time. (Source All Things Target)
Good luck and happy cooking. Update (10/5/2014): This -

Fueling Work Sessions with the Alphacinno

Lately I've been working a lot. College is again in full swing, plus I'm grinding away on the casino. My foreseeable future is 18/19 wakeful hours spent learning, planning, researching, hustling. There was this idea written about months ago on Danger & Play, Mike Cernovich's site. The "alphacinno" - protein powder, coffee, and fat. Admittedly I've tried "bulletproof coffee" in the past and that didn't do much for me. So I was doubtful. What difference could protein make? I bookmarked the post but kind of forgot about it. Then some days ago, I was brewing coffee and had protein out on the counter. MCTs in the fridge. What the hell. Now consider me converted. Mike suggested the alphacinno for pre-workout, I think a better recommendation is pre-work. Programming, researching, writing, exercise, whatever you need to conquer. It energizes and sustains without the heavy feeling you might get from a meal, so you won't want to sit around on the couch watching Family Feud. Maybe it's not modafinil, but not every day should be one of those days. Your head might explode. Here are my go-to alphacinno variants.

Cookies & Cream Alphacinno

Smooth despite the dark roast coffee. Dominant flavor is that of the MusclePharm powder.
  • 1 scoop Muscle Milk vanilla creme protein powder
  • 1 scoop MusclePharm cookies & cream protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon Now MCT oil
  • 16 oz. cold coffee, dark roast
  • 2 tablespoons golden flax powder
Cookies and Cream Alphacinno

Mocha Alphacinno

This has a pretty dark taste, like any of the Tim Horton's iced mocha items.
  • 1 scoop Barleans chocolate silk greens powder
  • 1 scoop MusclePharm cookies & cream protein powder
  • 1 tablespoon Now MCT oil
  • 16 oz. cold coffee, dark roast
  • 2 tablespoons golden flax powder
Mocha Alphacinno I'm such a fan now that I bought alphacinno.com and pointed it at the original post. Some non-class days I consider just drinking these, never leaving my office. I may have a problem.
Deliberately left my usual affiliate links out of this post. Should you want to buy the ingredients on Amazon, do it through a Danger & Play affiliate link. Respect is due to the source.

Steal These Business Ideas for New TLDs

You've probably heard of or even been to some - this last year or so has seen over a thousand new top level domain (TLD) names. And there are more coming. What does this mean for online brands and the entrepreneurs behind them? I'm not sure. While I'm tempted to get excited at how much new opportunity this seems to bring, in reality it's business as usual. Remember .co domain names? GoDaddy really wanted .co to be the next .com - they paid a lot for Super Bowl advertising around it - but it was/is a flop. I expect these new names are going to flop too. There's just way too many. However, in case I'm wrong, I generated a bunch of new business ideas around new TLDs. Steal the ideas if you want. Please. How to Grab a New TLD Before I present my brilliant (?) ideas, I should explain how to go about grabbing these. While many new TLDs have already been released, some aren't out yet. Those ones - if you want them - will need to be "pre-registered". My preferred registration service for domains has long been NameCheap. If you run WHOIS for any of my domains, you'll see they're either registered to me through NameCheap or linked up with their anonymization service (free for a year). Their prices are also among the cheapest, and you get solid customer service. You can either these names from them outright or pre-register - as soon as they become available, they'll be yours. Other services like OnlyDomains will just hold some of these names but NameCheap will actually accept payment now and apply it when these come out. (Full disclosure: Links to NameCheap are affiliate links. If you buy anything through them I will receive a small commission that does not affect your purchase price. These are services I actually use myself, as can be verified through WHOIS lookup.) My NameCheap Domain Names Which Ones Did I Grab I'll tell you which new names I'm looking at - ging.casino, ging.lotto, ging.games, ging.hangout (social gaming experience?), and ging.poker. Admittedly I have holds on them (via OnlyDomains) at the time of this writing and have not pulled the trigger to purchase. As much as I'm about protecting the Ging Gaming brand, whether these new names are of value remains to be proven. Registration cost can be up to 10x that of a typical domain name. OnlyDomains New TLD Hold Idea: "Short Hair Dating" (shorthair.dating - claim the domain name) Short haircuts on girls seem to be pretty popular as of late, so it's just natural that niche sites should develop tailored for these short-haired girls and the men who seek them out. With this domain you have two business routes.
  1. Acquire the name and attempt to sell it to one of the existing short-haired dating sites. Yes, it's not the most original concept and there are a few out there already. The domain might cost $20, you could sell it to one of them for $100 with some sales skills. Maybe more?Screen Shot 2014-08-26 at 1.53.56 AM
  2. Develop your own site. Of those potential competitors above, the first result seems like a strong website while the second and third result both go to the same place. That one's not so hot. With aggressive promotion and a quality website, you could take them on. What can you do better? Maybe be more selective with your user base (be really strict about just having short-haired girls, weed out creepy guys). Maybe throw events in major cities. I've never run a dating site but hear they can be lucrative.
Get this girl on your site and I'll even sign up. (Image credit Zerihoun)
Idea: "Battering Ram Deals" (batteringram.deals - claim the domain name) Kind of a random idea but a sort of linear one too. First, you set up a basic e-commerce site for battering rams. Keep it focused on those as there are enough sites out there for all kinds of tactical gear. You want to be the best stop for battering rams. When people think "battering rams" - Battering Ram Deals! How to source them? Finding a dropshipper would be easiest. It's probably a pain to store dozens of these things, plus the actual demand for battering rams is unknown to me - could be a lot of upfront inventory money lost. So find a dropshipper. Then I'm envisioning a big viral marketing campaign, spearheaded by some controversial YouTube commercials. Pick up Ryan Holiday's Trust Me, I'm Lying for inspiration. I'll lay out one video to begin with. The commercial should lead in with something like "think about all those times you've ever needed a battering ram", then segue into just totally inappropriate situations. Something involving a Porta-John. Something involving a crying girl and a burly man trying to forcefully enter the room she's in. Suggest a lot of bad stuff, never actually cross the line. Then you can send anonymous tips to Jezebel or other passionate news sites/blogs. Think back to the point of the marketing campaign - viral. You have to step on some toes, press some buttons. For every 1,000 people that come upon the video due to a social media flareup, maybe 1 actually needs a battering ram. Get it in front of a million people and you'll move a bunch of battering rams. There's decent margins on those, right?
(Image credit The Specialists, Ltd.)
Idea: "The Bipolar Diet" (bipolar.diet - claim the domain name) Another thing you could take two different ways. The diet itself would basically be carb-cycling, perhaps with intermittent fasting thrown in. Like LeanGains. And because you're alternating high-carb, low-carb days with presumably very different foods... it's "The Bipolar Diet"!
  1. Make the site revolve around an info-product. Release enough information to hook people, pay for some Google Adwords advertising to get your traffic. The product itself could be an e-book, or a whole package with videos and stuff. Or both and you have a "premium" option and a "basic" one. Maybe hire some people on Elance or oDesk to produce that for you on the cheap. Have your finished product on Clickbank so affiliates are doing the selling too, in case the Adwords traffic on its own doesn't convert that well.
  2. Keep all the content free and make money a little at a time with affiliate links. Amazon, eBay, Clickbank. If you're lucky you'll attract a sort of cult-like following of "bipolar dieters". Be especially active on Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter with cool stuff and social media could drive most of your traffic.
Also note that you could make "The Bipolar Diet" about the optimum diet for controlling symptoms of actual bipolar disorder instead of a gimmicky, hyped carb-cycling routine. I think a ketogenic diet has been suggested as best for that? Either way you might weasel your way onto the Dr. Oz show.
(Image credit JoeFitness.com)
Idea: "Rent a Baby" (renta.baby - claim the domain name) This one's pretty straightforward but will be a liability nightmare. If you can navigate the nightmare, perhaps there's a business here. After all, people pay for cuddling.
Liability nightmare! (Image credit CBS and DailyMail.co.uk)
Idea: "Fat Guy Yoga" (fatguy.yoga - claim the domain name) I imagine that yoga would be beneficial for fat guys, yet is uniquely prohibitive to fat men at the same time. How is a fat man supposed to feel comfortable exercising in an environment typically dominated by fit, flexible women in yoga pants? Or at least not feel self-conscious. How can he follow the typical routine given his lack of flexibility and obvious physical obstacles such as his gut? Someone needs to figure all this out, market yoga for fat men, and release an info-product or train yogis to become certified in Fat Guy Yoga. There's money here somewhere.
(Image credit WizIQ)
Idea: "Online Dating Help" (onlinedating.help - claim the domain name) This is actually an idea my friends and I were screwing around with about a month ago, when Johnny mentioned he gets all kinds of mail from Match.com. People suck and/or hate writing about themselves, especially on dating sites it seems. I haven't even really filled in my own About page at the moment. That's where Online Dating Help comes in. You are now a service provider:
  • Help your clients choose pictures. Use your best judgment about picking interesting or charming ones. Maybe consult Hot or Not. You could even refer them to a professional photographer in their area - possibly the best choice as you could make a referral deal with photographers as another income stream.
  • Do the writing for them. Pictures are supposedly the most important thing in online dating, but you'll have to help them be textually appealing as well. Maybe the dating site prompt is "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?", you write for them "I grow weary of human pursuits and strive to become a cat. Creep through a little grass, lick myself, stalk a few field mice." Brilliant.
  • You could even "open" potential matches for them. If your client is looking for a woman, remember that women get a ton of opening messages on these sites. You have to make your guy stand out. "Look, I know tonight is Julio's wedding so I just wanted to make sure you're not planning anything crazy." Irresistible.
There's a lot of opportunity here for helping people and running a respectable business. Different revenue streams galore. Put out your own dating guide, they're pretty popular on Amazon. Charge extra for Skype consultations. Photoshop pictures for a small fee. Make videos. Have a paid members' area. Play puppet master and match your clients with each other. The world is your oyster!
(Image credit ninegps.tumblr.com)
Conclusion If a domain unavailability has ever stopped you from creating an online business, these new TLDs may shine some new light on the issue. Remember to use a tool like this one to check social media names too.

Transparency and Honesty In Gaming

Anyone who has been involved with the gaming industry can agree that there's a lot of smoke and mirrors. I'm not just talking about that mysterious loyalty program - the one where nobody quite understands how points are earned. There are all kinds of theatrics and things going on behind the scenes constantly in casinos. Surveillance and security - a guest might wonder, is there somebody watching every feed all the time? Where do those guards that just seem to pop up out of nowhere come from? Some sort of spawn point a la 1985's Gauntlet, no doubt. Casino Security Gauntlet Then you have things right in front of the guests' faces that are deceptive - two slot machines right next to each other, same credit value, same theme, different paytable. The machine has 1 cent on it in huge font, yet you have to play 40 cents - 40 credit minimum. Are there any guests out there who 100% trust the casino? Like who will enthusiastically stand on top of their chair at the Three Card Poker table and shout their trust in you? But why not? Why do things have to be this way? Dennis Conrad, a man who needs no introduction in the gaming industry, had a thought-provoking article in this month's issue of Casino Journal. Appropriately it centered around the question "Why Not?" and if you have time definitely check out the full article. From Conrad's aforementioned piece The Value of a Good Question:
Why not share with gamblers the mathematical odds and probabilities of all available bets in the casino? Wouldn't that build some trust in a typically low-trust environment? And do you think many players would change their betting habits anyway?
This is easy to implement in an online gaming environment. Put a button or link off to the side of games, that when clicked will show players the mathematics of what they're playing. Better yet - walk the player through how to play the games if they need it. Sure you can guess around with the online "practice plays", but a guided tutorial would be superior and make sure the player knows all the intricacies and points of the game. Naturally written instructions should be available too if a guest just wants to look up something. Why not disclose odds in the tutorials too? So, in "i-gaming", those are three things that should be made available to the player off to the side of their games -
  1. Detailed odds/probability data for all bets
  2. Guided, interactive tutorials (also disclosing odds)
  3. Written tutorials (with odds)
In an offline environment, I could see the creation of pamphlets that detailed odds for all available table games. Upon request, floor supervisors could grab one for a guest from a pit storage area. On the machines, again, a button with corresponding table would do. Also from the article:
Why not have players' clubs where players know every single benefit (comps, cash back, free play, points, etc.) that they have earned, and what they can spend them on? That seems far superior to having some secret, discretionary, "I'll bestow them on you when I want to" benefit buckets.
This is another situation that might be best accomplished in brick-and-mortar environments by just making up detailed pamphlets. Naturally one would distribute them to players when they sign up for the player's club, and also make them available from the player's club desk at all times. Lastly all the information should be posted to the casino website. Shortly before I dealt table games at Turning Stone, all machines were changed to TITOs and the player's club also got overhauled. Fairly regular table players would constantly mention how they preferred the old rewards program, or just didn't understand the new one. From the Turning Stone website:
Turning Stone Rewards Confusion
So there are at least 2 types of points, plus a blackhole of table games information and at least 2 measurements of paythrough...
Ideally the player's club should be a winning situation for everybody, not just a source of guest confusion. Last point I'll quote:
Why not create a revenue stream and have back-of-the-house tours of those "mystical" casino areas, like surveillance, count rooms, entertainers' dressing rooms, buffet food prep, and other uniquely casino areas?
In the physical casino, this would be pretty easy to implement since typically these programs are already in place - for employees. At Turning Stone I believe at least one comprehensive property tour was given a week, to boost employee knowledge and therefore improve one's ability to inform guests. By letting guests come along on your property tours, you can further ensure there's nothing to hide. If a casino doesn't want to set this up, they should at least create an extensive "behind the scenes" tour for their YouTube and other social media. What's the harm in having a professional video crew make everything transparent for the guests? Wynn has produced a video tour for their resort. If applicable you might want to have a video focusing on your gaming, shopping, dining, and lodging separately. Can't we go even farther? Release specific financials for the whole casino operation, whether physical or online. The players already know the house has an advantage, and that they make more than they give out. I doubt full financial disclose on all fronts would do any harm. Make even individual game revenue available. In i-gaming it's relatively easy to implement cryptography in such a way that players can prove the fairness of games. Ensure your online players know how to check this too - just saying it's possible is not enough. Actively ask players for feedback, whether positive or negative. Post both publicly along with an appropriate response. If there was an issue, disclose how you're going to improve. In most businesses, you're dead in the water if those you serve don't trust you. In the gaming industry, a lack of trust has been settling in as normal. Let's clear the smoke and break the mirrors.
At Ging Gaming we're working to build the most honest and transparent experience out there with Ging Casino. If you're interested, you can follow the project on Twitter. We hope you'll play with us when we launch.  

Reflections on Turning 20

Today I quietly turned 20. Birthdays always bring out a range of emotions for me. They're almost stressful - I get all these thoughts swirling around in my head: I need to jam this day full of crazy exciting things. I have to make a big deal out of the fact it's my birthday. I'm closer to death and I'm nowhere near accomplishing what I want to yet. Usually not a lot of that last one, but on this birthday yes. How can I be 20 already? It's sad. And I can't exactly place my finger on why. It's not like I'm unaccomplished. I've traveled the world, fallen in and out of love, gone on all kinds of wild escapades, published a couple of books (they sucked), met all kinds of people in the weirdest situations, made friends, made enemies, lost touch with most of those, got in a heap of trouble being a reckless kid, had a problem with alcohol, almost had a problem with painkillers, sorted all of that out 100%. I've experienced things that I never dreamed, back when I was 10 or whatever, I would get to experience. I'm blessed. Somehow I sorted out where I want to go professionally in my life. That was back in the summer before 11th grade, watching Las Vegas re-runs. It was such a foreign concept, the gaming industry, because obviously I wasn't old enough to know much about it. But I said "that looks like fun," ended up obsessed. My relationship with my parents has settled. By that I mean, when you're a little kid you think your parents are perfect. That's one extreme. Then in your earlier teenage years you figure out they're not, and you get angry. Another extreme. At this point I appreciate my parents as flawed human beings, like we all are. You learn to accept things. I believe this is the middle-ground, the settling point. I appreciate my entire family more now than I did in my earlier years, honestly. My closest group of friends too. That all came after an accident a couple years ago where I was in the hospital for a week. You realize who cares and what's important in moments like that, you're forced to stop and reflect. Overall I guess not much has changed, becoming 20. I'm grouped with a new age group but I still can't legally drink or get a NY pistol permit. I'm still in college, until May at least. I don't look different. Things are pretty much the same. Cheer up.
If you're approaching 20 I would maybe say, think about what it'll be like ahead of time. Get the "teenager" out of your system if you feel like it. The actual event can be weird and nobody warns you to prepare mentally. My 20th birthday sort of snuck up. Next one I'll be in Vegas. 🙂

Transcript of Steve Wynn on Stanford’s Uncommon Knowledge

Back in July, Stanford University's Hoover Institution put out a two-part episode of Uncommon Knowledge in which Peter Robinson interviewed Steve Wynn. They talk about everything from the casino and hotel business to entrepreneurship to where Wynn Resorts is headed. (Hopefully to Everett) I've only now gotten around to watching both parts but was taken aback with the breadth of knowledge distilled. Steve Wynn truly is a legend. I took it upon myself to transcribe both episodes for the pleasure of other gaming and hospitality industry enthusiasts. As there is a lot here, I may do a separate post breaking down the interview. Enjoy. Author's Note: I do not own rights to the following content but have simply transcribed it. All rights reserved to the original owners. Uncommon Knowledge is distributed by Wall Street Journal Live and a production of the Hoover Institution. I've dropped in some Wikipedia links sparsely to help you further research some of what's mentioned if desired.
Part 1: Steve Wynn discusses his journey into the Las Vegas hotel and casino business WSJ Live presents Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson Steve Wynn Interview: Part One Robinson: "What I like about casinos is that they allow us to build hotels. A slot machine or a blackjack or a roulette table, they have no power. It's the non-casino stuff that gets people to come back again and again." With us today the man who said that, and who by universal agreement reinvented Las Vegas, Steve Wynn. Shooting at the Wynn Las Vegas, Uncommon Knowledge now. Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson: A Production of the Hoover Institution Robinson: Welcome to Uncommon Knowledge. I'm Peter Robinson. Wynn Resorts, the owner and operator of luxury casino resorts in the United States and China, on revenues in 2013 of $5.6 billion, net income of more than $1 billion, and a stock price that has risen over the last 5 years from roughly $37 to well over $200, more than quintupling in value. With us today, the company's founder, chairman, and chief executive officer, and by wide agreement the man who reinvented Las Vegas, Steve Wynn. Steve, I ordinarily thank guests for joining us but since we're shooting today not only in your hotel, but in your home, this is your villa at the Wynn Las Vegas, thank you for permitting us to join you. Wynn: I was listening to your introduction, and one thought passed through my mind - better to be lucky than smart. Robinson: (laughs) Okay, new kid in town in 1967, 25-year-old Steve Wynn arrives in Las Vegas with money from the family business, a string of bingo parlors back east, he buys a small stake in the Frontier. Steve, this town in 1967, I once heard you say Las Vegas hotels when you got here were like motels. They weren't real hotels. What did this town look like in those days? Wynn: There were 60,000 people. There were 8 or 9 hotels on The Strip. They were, with one or two exceptions, low-rise structures, and if they had a high-rise it was with 300 or 400 rooms. Del Webb had built the Sahara that had 1,000 rooms. The Stardust was basically a motel with 1,400 rooms. The rest of them were 2 and 3-story structures with little small high-rises attached to them, small casinos with 300 slot machines and 40 games and a showroom. And it was a small town, a company town. Robinson: And what brought you here in the first place? From upstate New York, where you grew up in upstate New York, you were operating bingo parlors out - Wynn: When my father died, when I was a senior in school, on the table in heart surgery, we were broke. It was my senior year at Penn and I graduated and I had the business, the family business in the Maryland. I had the bingo that was licensed in Maryland. And I had run it while I was a student, that was how I got my allowance. I would go down from Philadelphia to Washington every weekend and run the bingo. And I wanted to be a developer. And because I was in a county that was adjacent to the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, I wanted to build an industrial park and I could buy a farm for a million dollars that was next to the airport. And I could get it zoned for the airport. Other people might have had a hard time but I knew my way around the county, I thought I could get the zoning. And I didn't have any money. I was worth about 50 thousand dollars or 25 thousand dollars, and I found John MacArthur at Bankers' Life Insurance and Casualty, and offered him half of it if he would lend me the million to buy the farm. He said no, but he asked me a bunch of questions about where I'd gone to school and how was my business legal and all that sort of thing. And I left and I went back to Maryland and two weeks later I got a phone call from his office saying that Mr. MacArthur, he and Getty were the two richest Americans at the time, he owned Bankers' Life and Casualty by himself, wanted to see me again in New York and that he'd pay for my airfare. Well I paid my own airfare and went up to the Plaza Hotel and I sat with him and in effect he told me that the insurance company owned this land on The Strip, a closed hotel called the Last Frontier. The insurance company had tried to sell it to get rid of it and so far had been unsuccessful but a group of men had come to him to lease it for a very, very big price if he would add $5 million for a high-rise, and for more rooms. Robinson: Right. Wynn: And he said that he would like to have someone in the lessee group that represented his interests. Would I like to go there, and he would arrange me to get 2 or 3 or 4 percent for virtually nothing, a few thousand dollars, 25 thousand dollars. And he said he'd pay my way to go check it out. And I said I'd pay my own way, and I ended up on Thanksgiving Eve 1965 in Las Vegas - Robinson: You were 23 years old? Wynn: 23 years old, with my wife Elaine, and I was with a friend of my father's who had arranged for me to meet MacArthur, and we started this whole weekend at Palm Springs. And we were at a restaurant called Ruby's Dunes and - Sinatra was at the next table, with some people. Robinson: Totally by happenstance? Wynn: I had luck. And he walked over to say hello to the guy I was with, and got introduced. He says "what are you doing out here", he said we're going to Las Vegas tomorrow because Steve has been invited to join a deal for a new hotel on The Strip. Sinatra did a double take. I looked like I was about 16 years old, so did Elaine. "What hotel on The Strip?" I quickly sort of described what Mr. MacArthur was doing, and he said "where are you staying?" He said we're staying at the Dunes. "No, you won't. You'll stay with me. You'll stay with me at the Sands, I'll take care for you and the young people here." And the next thing you know, we're in Las Vegas, guests of Frank Sinatra, staying in a suite when everybody in the world is crowded into The Sands to get a glimpse of the Rat Pack. Robinson: Well these were the classic days of the Rat Pack. Wynn: That was it. They were there. You can't really explain to people today what it was like. We went to the showroom, the Sands showroom had 500 seats, the Copa Room where the Rat Pack worked was a tiny nightclub. Robinson: How many seats have you got here at the Wynn Las Vegas? Wynn: Oh 1,500 usually, nothing's big now, but it was a 500-seat joint. We were in line, we're at the end of the line, we come to the maître d, you know typical guy with the card. And we say "Wynn". The guy's eyes (motions big with his eyes) - "Hello, Mr. Wynn, welcome to the Sands." He says to the captain, "take them to booth 5." We taken, and there's 497 people in that room, we walk in and - the older guy and the two of us, we look like we're his kids, and we sit in a booth in the center of the ringside. On the right is Lucille Ball, Elizabeth Taylor, and their - other people. On the left is Gregory and Vernie Peck, and Roger Moore and his wife. Everybody in the room is somebody, or a giant customer of the Sands. Robinson: Right, right. Wynn: They had some dancing girls like the Copa girls and they went offstage. And without an announcement Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Joey Bishop walk out - the place goes nuts. Everybody is cheering because Sinatra and Martin and Davis knew everybody that was in the room. Robinson: Got it. Wynn: And so they start walking around the apron, the proscenium - "Hi Lizzy, hi Lucy, hi Greg, hi Vernie" - you know - "Hi Rog". Sinatra says, "how do you like the seat, kid?" Robinson: (laughs) Wynn: Everybody looked at me and said what mafioso son is that, you know, or whatever. I mean it was so funny. So cool. Dean Martin - Mr. Cool. Frank Sinatra - the boss. Sammy Davis - the court jester with more talent than anybody. Peter Lawford and Joey Bishop were sort of like furniture. Robinson: Steve, Steve, you're a big-time businessman but what you're telling us is, you came to this, you fell in love. Wynn: I was totally - I had no intention of staying. I just wanted to take my wife on a vacation, when my dad died we never had a honeymoon. Robinson: Right. Wynn: So it was two years later, from '63 to '65, I figure this'll be fun. Robinson: Right. Wynn: The maître d said to me, "when the show is over stay in the seat." We get taken, when the showroom empties, through the back to the lounge. There Louis Prima, Keely Smith, Sam Butera and The Witnesses on stage. Two reserved tables. We sit down at the reserved table. A thousand people in the casino cramming to see this, it was an open lounge. Robinson: Right. Wynn: Five minutes later here comes Frank and Dean and Sammy, sit next to us. My first night in Las Vegas and I end up sitting next to them, watching Louis Prima and Keely Smith. And at that point I am toasted. I'm going, I'm staying, I don't care what the heck is going on anywhere else. I gotta figure out a way to be around here. What fun this is. Robinson: So you buy a small stake in the Frontier - Wynn: I was a slot manager and assistant credit manager. Robinson: It emerges, not long after you buy the stake, that some other shareholders in the Frontier are fronting for the Detroit mob. And you - Wynn: Exactly. Robinson: Nobody accuses you, but you sell out. Wynn: I'll tell you how I got lucky in the Frontier. The only time I myself came within spitting distance of what you'd call 'bad guys' was in those early days when I was a slot manager at the Frontier. The place opened in July of '67, it was sold to Hughes in November. The whole experience lasted 4 months. Now at that time, Howard Hughes' banker Parry Thomas, who owned the Valley Bank, the Thomas and Mack Arena here in town, he's 92 years old, he's become my second father ever since I was that age. Parry Thomas was trying to buy the Frontier for Hughes. I didn't like the people in the hotel because they didn't know what they were doing. I wanted to go home. So I was lobbying other shareholders from California, some other shareholders, that we ought to sell to Hughes. Which put me at odds with the guys from Detroit who didn't want to sell to Hughes. But I was sort of the agent of the Mormon banker, Parry Thomas - Robinson: Got it. Wynn: As it turns out, the U.S. Attorney testified in a letter for me when I got licensed in New Jersey, that on the wiretaps that the government had, the Detroit guys in Las Vegas talking to the ones in Detroit were complaining about me. That I was causing the place to be sold by lobbying the other shareholders. And he wrote a letter that not only did Mr. Wynn not have anything to do with those people, he swore to their efforts to stop the sale to Hughes. So I was very lucky, that I was in the wrong place, but the government happened to be the witness. Robinson: Got it. Wynn: And, at 25 years old, it could have turned out differently. I could have been tainted by that. That's the only time that I became remotely close to that stuff. Robinson: Got it. Wynn: And the banker, he convinced me to stay. Robinson: It was Hughes' banker. [E. Parry Thomas] Wynn: And his son is my colleague who did all our designing with me of the hotels all these years. Robinson: This is another theme in your story. You collect people. People seem to stay with you, we'll get to that in a moment. So you sell the Frontier, you do a couple of land deals - Wynn: The liquor business, with the help of my banker. Became a distributor in Reno and Las Vegas of liquor, wine, and beer. Robinson: And then you buy a big enough stake in the Golden Nugget in town - Wynn: But then I bought - the key thing is that Howard Hughes sold me the corner next to Caesar's for a million dollars, a million one hundred thousand dollars. Robinson: Why? Why did he sell to you? He was famous for holding onto everything. Wynn: It was a strange narrow piece of property that had come into his ownership by means no one quite understood. And it was in his name. I bought it from Howard Robard Hughes Junior, not the usual company. This strange, silly piece of property was purchased in his name. When the people that took over Hughes' operation, when he left town, tried to find out how it came into ownership by Hughes, neither he nor anybody else could answer the question. And he was mystified himself. My banker, Parry Thomas, had Hughes sell me the property because it wasn't next to anything Hughes owned. And he lent me the million two to buy it including a hundred thousand dollars for interest. Ten months later I sold it for two and quarter million to Caesar's Palace. I made my first million dollars, I was 29 years old. And I paid my tax. I had a partner Abe Rosenberg who owned a third of J&B Scotch, who had signed the note at the bank with me. And on my $600,000 I invested in the Golden Nugget and got control of the company and that's been the size of my whole investment from day one. $600,000. Robinson: $600,000. Wynn: Made on a land deal with Hughes. Robinson: You got control of the Golden Nugget, now that's moving pretty quickly through an interesting chapter right there. Wynn: I was 30. Robinson: You were 30, you end up as chairman of the Golden Nugget. Best I can tell - Wynn: No rooms, just a casino. Robinson: Just a casino. Wynn: Little casino, had a million eight hundred thousand shares of stock at $3 or $4 a share. About a $7 million company. And I got 10% of the place for $600,000. Robinson: And you began rebuilding the Golden Nugget. Wynn: Yes. Robinson: You rebuild the Golden Nugget - Wynn: At a time when such things were possible. Robinson: Why do you say that? Wynn: In life, everything is about timing. Robinson: Okay. Wynn: Everyone thought that Las Vegas was the underworld. Robinson: Right. Wynn: It wasn't. They were gone. Robinson: Got it. Wynn: But - it was too early for Wall Street to come yet. But the Mormon banker knew about it and he said to me, when I wanted to go home and we sold the Frontier, "Steve, you should stay here. The town needs young people. You'll end up owning the place." He actually said those words to me. My net worth was fifty thousand dollars. Everything from that point forward was with the help of the Mormon banker. He lent me the money, he got me in control position at the Nugget, he lent me - he and First Security of Utah, the bank of the LDS Church - lent me my first $12 million to build my rooms at the Nugget. I was in the right place at the right time. You know, there's an awful lot of hard work and smart people but they don't always find themselves so, so much the beneficiary of timing of opportunity. In my case I just fell into it. Robinson: Next chapter here. Mid-1970s, New Jersey voters approved casinos in Atlantic City. In 1978 you buy a piece of property in Atlantic City, you rip it down, you build the Atlantic City Golden Nugget, and you operate that profitably for not quite a decade and you sell it in 1987 to Bally's to come back to this town. Why did you go into Atlantic City and why did you get out? Wynn: The business opportunity in Atlantic City, they opened in Memorial Day '78. The same weekend that I opened the Golden Nugget, the 600-room hotel called the Golden Nugget Rooming House. I was a ski friend, I'm a powder skier - Robinson: Right. Wynn: And the president of Resorts International is Jack Davis, was a powder skier with me. We used to ski together in Utah. Jack Davis had invited me the year before to see the boardwalk and said "next year we're opening, it's going to be a big thing, you should be here, Steve." I said I'm building my hotel in Las Vegas, I don't want to come here. I made a mistake. Memorial Day rolls around, I have the best weekend in the history of the Golden Nugget because I have rooms. I'm all proud of myself. And Jack Davis is on television because resorts opened in New Jersey. I call Jack Davis and say Jack, I saw you on TV, it looks great. He says "unbelievable." I say we opened the hotel this weekend. I broke all my records. We did $50,000 in slot machine business for the weekend, and the place used to do $4,000 or $5,000 a day. We did $10,000, $3,000 a day. I said how'd you do. He's - it gets quiet on the phone - he says "actually we did $150,000." Robinson: (laughs) Wynn: I thought, for the weekend, my god, three times as much as the Nugget. And then after a beat he says - "a day." What?! "We did $700,000 the first three days in slots. We're having trouble counting the money from the tables because it's all stacked up in box crates." What? "Steve, get on the plane and come here." The next day I was on the plane and I went to see Jack Davis. And I went to walk into his office at Resorts International, couldn't get through the crowds to get to the elevator. He's sitting back at his desk like "I told you so." I said, okay, we're going to get some land. He says "go see Manny Solomon at the Strand Motel. But at the opposite end of boardwalk." He wanted to put me as far away as he could. And I went to see Manny Solomon and bought the property the next day, and it looked so good. Robinson: Right. Wynn: And everyone was rushing and remodeling these dumpy old hotels. I said, if I build a new one that's all bright and shiny, they want the Las Vegas experience, I'll be the guy that gives it to them. And it took me an extra year - I didn't open until '79, '80. But the advantage we had, even though we were the smallest one, was so great that at the end of three years we had made more money than the other guys including their head start. So, you know, it's again what you offer the public. And the Golden Nugget Atlantic City was a big hit because I got Sinatra to come and be the spokesman and hang out with me and then Dean Martin joined us. Robinson: So why'd you sell? In '87? Wynn: Because no matter what I said to the government, two governors, that they had to take control of that city away from the local government. Robinson: Got it. Wynn: They were so corrupt and stupid. The local government was the pits. And I kept saying to governors of New Jersey, you must take control of the central planning of this community if it's to save itself. Right now you're the monopoly on the east coast, that will end someday. And the infrastructure of this city has to be so big that it's like Las Vegas. Las Vegas is surviving in spite of everything because of the infrastructure. You're so big. The menu for guests is so great. Atlantic City can't just be a local crap game. It's got to be a destination city, but for that the government had to take over. The New Jersey state government, not the Atlantic City local government which was pathetic. Well they wouldn't. And they didn't. And I came, at one point of the view, that Atlantic City was never going to take advantage of its opportunity and would eventually face obsolescence. Which I'm afraid is true today. And so when the opportunity came to sell, I jumped at it. I had already bought the property on The Strip from Hughes' nephew that is Treasure Island and the Mirage. Robinson: Which brings us back to Las Vegas, and here comes the reinvention of this town. While you're operating in Atlantic City, Las Vegas has some tough times. Tourism drops. There's a lack of new construction and a sense in this town, late '70s, mid '80s, that the best days of Las Vegas are behind it. It's losing it's competitive edge. And then Steve Wynn returns and spends more than $600 million building the Mirage, making it the most expensive casino to that point in history. It opens in November 1989 with more than 3,000 rooms, an artificial volcano, lions and tigers in the Siegfried and Roy show, acrobats from Cirque du Soleil. In '93 you do it again, you open Treasure Island, a $450 million casino with a lake and a pirate ship. 1998, again - Bellagio. $1.6 billion resort, 4,000 rooms, more than a hundred thousand square feet of gaming space. To this day one of the big things to do in this town is go over to the Bellagio in the evening and watch the Fountains of Bellagio show. So this is investments of more than $2.6 billion in a town that, when you came back, for Steve Wynn round 2, had grown seedy. So the question here is - what did you think you were doing? Wynn: The analysis of the Hilton, the MGM, and Caesar's underpinned the business plan and the opportunity that was, that would define the Mirage. There'd been 2,000 and 2,500 room hotels but there'd never been a 3,000 room hotel in the world. The MGM was about tourist travel and they had a shopping center downstairs. Hilton was about food and beverage and convention. Caesar's was about the leverage of the casino in international business baccarat. You combine the three, there was clearly a business plan there that would produce a return on $600 million. And the worst case would be 100, 150. We did 225 right out of the box. Now - that proved that you could invest - it was a $200 million town before that, as far as investment. Now all of a sudden we have tripled the capital. And the Mirage - I was asked, while the governor was present and I unveiled a model of Mirage before we broke ground, what's the importance of this facility? I said I think it's going to be a great investment for our shareholders. But really the most important thing about the Mirage will be that it will show Las Vegas is a safe place to invest over $500 million. I didn't realize when I said it how prophetic that statement was. Because it unleashed, as you said in your introduction, a decade of billions of dollars in investment. You know, these things occurred sequentially. And, I might add, again referring to timing - think of the late '70s. late '80s, and early '90s. That was the era of the Japanese investment of America. The wave of - we had customers, one after another, who nobody had ever heard of, who put up a million dollars to gamble. Two million dollars to gamble. I mean, the Japanese - Robinson: So this was the first big international money? Wynn: Big, big, right. It was a wave. Tsunami, to use a current term. When it came into the mid-'90s, I knew that you could buy the Desert Inn. And I had advised Nick Pritzker of Hyatt, when he came to see me, "how do we get in here?" I said buy the Desert Inn, it's got water rights, it's next - the Desert Inn, it's got it's front on The Strip but the back across from the convention center. Robinson: But it was way at the north end of The Strip. Didn't matter? Wynn: No, listen - the development makes a location. Not the location makes a development. Robinson: (puts up hands) Okay. Wynn: I remind you that the Dunes went bankrupt twice, after Caesar's and MGM were open. On the number 1 corner. When I bought the Dunes I paid $400,000 an acre for it. No one wanted it. Can you imagine that in 1994? Nobody wanted 166 acres with a golf course on The Strip except me. And I offered Sumitomo Bank $70 million for 166 acres... End Part One
Part Two: Steve Wynn discusses the future of his business WSJ Live presents Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson Steve Wynn Interview: Part Two [Yes this is the same introduction from the first part] Robinson: "What I like about casinos is that they allow us to build hotels. A slot machine or a blackjack or a roulette table, they have no power. It's the non-casino stuff that gets people to come back again and again." With us today the man who said that, and who by universal agreement reinvented Las Vegas, Steve Wynn. Shooting at the Wynn Las Vegas, Uncommon Knowledge now. Uncommon Knowledge with Peter Robinson: A Production of the Hoover Institution Robinson: I have to ask you sort of a business school question. Do entrepreneurs just have a stomach - they can stand more risk than the rest of us, or doesn't it look risky to them? You could see things that other people couldn't see. Wynn: True. But that's a very good question. And both are true. It's an uncomfortable way to live, you know, in many respects. Because there's always a chance of failure. And there are certain people - very intelligent people - who do not choose to live that way, and they're not wrong. Robinson: They're called commercial bankers. Wynn: Or they're called "regular folks". Robinson: Okay. Wynn: Entrepreneurs have an appetite for living uncomfortably, that is a bit unusual. Truly living uncomfortably because when you get a close-up look at running your own business, it's scary. However, having said that, I will also say that entrepreneurs who survive long enough to be interviewed by you are entrepreneurs that are not guys who fly without a net. It's one thing to be able to sustain risk, and to live with a certain degree of uncertainty, to rely on your judgment. But it's quite another thing to be reckless. When Michael Jackson asked me in an interview he did with me once - when I introduced him to Siegfried and Roy he wanted to do an illusion for his Thriller tour, and I introduced him to S and R. I had shown him a tour of the Mirage just before it opened. Robinson: Right. Wynn: He was amazed, he said "do you get scared?" I said no. "But how, with all that - that thing that you're building?" I said look, Michael, before we broke ground we developed a business plan. We examined, re-examined, re-examined again and again our fundamentals. I said we raised $525 million with some of the toughest people in the world because our story was convincing. By the time we broke ground, Michael, we were so sure of what we were doing that we did not think we were flying without a net or being a huge risk-taker. And I said I think, in answer to your question, I think at the end of the day you can live with the discomfort but you're also self-critical. And I - speaking of myself and my colleagues - we never risk the farm. Never risk the farm. My responsibility to my employees, my stockholders is such that - I can't promise to be right all the time. No one can. You make calls, sometimes they're right, sometimes they're wrong - but the capital structure allows you to survive the inevitable cycles of business, which go up and down as surely as sun rises and sun sets. Except we don't know the timing. They allow you to survive your own miscalculation. Capital structure I learned at a young age, thanks to Mike Milken who taught me the story. Capital structure is everything, and I've always had a capital structure that was bulletproof. Robinson: You said earlier, when you were running your dad's bingo parlor in Maryland and you spotted a piece of land and you wanted to be a developer, and you've also said - I quoted this right at the beginning, the reason you like casinos is they let you build hotels. Still - they're casinos. Your dad was a compulsive gambler, it was a real problem for you growing up, for your mom, for your little brother. He left the family in debt. How - how do you think about - you need the casinos because they give you more revenue than just the rooms, they let you - they let the whole act take place, right? Wynn: (nods) Robinson: But you're still, at some level - are you uncomfortable with the - how do you think about that in your own mind? Wynn: It is a central question, and I love it because I had to come to grips with it myself. 'Come to grips with' is too strong a term - I understand it. My answer is this. There are all kinds of indulgences that people have, that they do with their own money as they see fit if they come by it honestly. People spend money on wine that is outrageous, women buy pairs of shoes that are beyond any need, people buy cars that are extravagant, they build homes that are bigger than shelter. Who is to define the necessities of life? And who is to tell us what our hobbies, our self-indulgences should or should not be? There are people - the definition of a casino customer, a gambler is a person who likes the game more than they like the money. The definition of an art collector is a person who likes the painting more than money. The definition of a wine connoisseur is a person who loves the wine more than money. How can anyone pay $3,000 for an expendable bottle of wine that's gone in 3 minutes? Or gamble for thousands of dollars, or even millions at a table? If it's their own money, and they want to do it, that's their business. Robinson: Okay. Wynn: I am not judgmental about that unless I think someone doesn't know what they're doing, or has got a problem. And we have rules around here about compulsive gamblers - we shoo them off. We don't give them credit. Nobody can get in trouble, who's a compulsive gambler, unless someone gives them credit. If all they can lose is what's in their pocket, they'll never be in trouble. The trouble is when they can get money they don't have, you know. They hawk the future. So my attitude is we don't really hustle people to gamble. As a matter of fact, we're rather standoffish about it. What we do say is - if it is, if it happens to be that you like to play a slot machine or a - shoot crap or baccarat or roulette or any of those games, come here. The experience will be more elegant. The service will be classier and better. The food will taste better. We will - you want to stay at a great hotel, this is the place. And you can surely gamble while you're here. Or you - don't gamble at all, just bring your credit card and pay for it, because we charge for stuff. Last year, this casino won almost $880 million, something like that. Which was the most in the history of legalized gaming in Nevada. But it was a billion one in non-casino revenue. I think that begins to explain to you my attitude towards all this. And I have - my places have gambling rooms. Good - if that's what you like to do, go at it. You don't want to do it, that's fine. This is still the best place to stay in terms of entertainment, food, beverage, conventions, and everything else. And so I've never had any problem, I've never had any cognitive dissidence about gambling because my dad was a compulsive gambler. Any more than I do have cognitive dissidence about the fact that you can buy liquor in this place, and there are alcoholics. What I do think is important is there be places where people can get treated for these miseries that destroy lives. Gambling, drug addiction, alcoholism. I was on the first board of trustees for the Pathological Gaming Institute with Dr. Robert Custer. I helped support it. He was the recognized guru of this field. And he explained to me, Dr. Custer explained that compulsive behavior in drugs, alcohol, and gambling are all related. They come from the same part of the brain, they come into the same personality traits. So if someone's a drug addict they're a possible gambling addict. Or an alcoholic. The most important thing in treating this kind of misery is that there first be a place people can go. But more importantly, in each case the victim of such a compulsion must come to the conclusion they've had enough. With the help of their families, or friends, they have to say "enough". "I won't be victimized by this any more." We learned from Dr. Custer  the existence of a legal casino has absolutely no impact on the amount of compulsive gambling that goes on. Because people that like to gamble compulsively will bet with their bookmaker, find a crap game, play poker privately, they will gamble and gamble and gamble until they get themselves in trouble. Robinson: Steve, on to the current Wynn Resorts, the current company. 2000 - you sell Mirage Resorts to MGM for $6.6 billion. 2005, you open the Wynn Las Vegas in which we're seated right now. More than 2,700 rooms. 2006, you open the Wynn Macau in the People's Republic of China Special Administrative Region of Macau, 600 rooms and more than 200,000 square feet of gaming space. 2007, the Encore, the twin or partner resort to this also, the Encore Las Vegas. 2010 - the Encore Macau, 400 rooms. Under construction right now the Wynn Cotai [aka Wynn Palace], also in the - Wynn: Definite - Robinson: What's that? Wynn: Definite proof of pathological developer's disease. Robinson: (laughs) Wynn: You need no more information than that. Robinson: And then you're also going through this lengthy political and regulatory process to win clearance to build a new resort in Everett, just outside of Boston. [Support that if you haven't already, Ging Gaming sent a letter] That's projected to cost $1.6 billion right there, by itself. Now, business question, Steve Wynn quoted in Time Magazine - Wynn: I'm no danger to anybody, said my doctor, if I stay on my medication, except to myself. Robinson: (laughs) Two thousand - this is you quoted in Time Magazine in 2001, and that's before those billions of dollars of construction that I just read off. Quote - "I'm frightened that in my isolation as a chairman who doesn't see everything the bigger we get, that basically I don't really know what's going on." Steve, how do you make sure - you're seated here in Las Vegas - how do you make sure the standards are being maintained in Macau? For that matter, how do you make sure room - the rooms on the 18th floor are getting cleaned properly or how do you put - there's a question here about span of control when you get to be this big. How do you infuse your standards, your approach into an organization as big as this? Wynn: It's the question of all time, and the answer - as you get bigger - grows in direct proportion to the size of the enterprise. And there is only one answer. The culture. The culture lives and must exist on the most fundamental level, on the line of employees in an enterprise like this. Just as it must exist that way in the government. Who are we? What matters? Is that a simple question, to which there is a simple answer that anybody working here can answer? If it is a simple question - it should be - we're offering people a good experience when they come and stay here overnight. Whether they eat, or play, or go to the spa, or swim, or make a telephone call, or walk down the hallway. What is it that we're all up to? We're giving people a positive experience. And only people make people happy. If I could establish that culture, where each employee feels it's important to them to have responsibility now - for the guest experience - then your question is answered infinitely. So how do you do it? I tell you what - in this world, money's important if you're struggling and you have no security, but if you have a job and you think you're being paid fairly, money is not the issue anymore. What is important is their happiness, their state of mind, and their fundamental identification with the enterprise. If it's possible - that is to say, if performance on the job enhances self-esteem - you've plugged into the ultimate energy source available on this planet. Money doesn't touch it. But if self-esteem is at risk in the way you do your job everyday, now you've got something. When you have programs, like "employee of the month", "employee of the year", they're spotlight programs that give accolades and attention to people who do great work. Robinson: Right. Wynn: It's very important, those think. But they all have one - those programs are important, and we use them. They have one drawback. They require that you be noticed by your supervisor, and nominated for such accolade. So how can we eliminate that liability and turn nomination for accolades into something that the employee does on their own? We came up with that answer years ago. It's called storytelling. We retrained 1,200 or 1,300 supervisors - anybody that met with 3 or more people, up to 15, these shift meetings did small groups. Robinson: Right. Wynn: We train them to a thing. Every day, 3 times a day in this building, or whenever the shift starts, the supervisor says in the small group, "Hey! Anybody got a story of something good that happened yesterday with a customer?" Employee pipes up and says, "Well, yesterday this happened and I did this." And it's really cool. The employee acted as an individual to help a guest on a very personal level. A bellman says, "Uh, I took the people up to their room" - in the suites we tend to take the baggage with them up the elevator, and the last thing that bellmen are trained to do is say to check all your bags, is everything here, and can I explain to you stuff in the room, this sort of thing. And the woman, it was an older man and woman, the woman screeched, "Oh my god, Leonard, I left our bag with the medication on the hall table at home." He was an insulin-dependent diabetic. "Oh my god, Leonard, what are we going to do?" Woman was very distressed. Bellman says, "Calm down, ma'am, ma'am, we'll help you out. Where do you live?" Pacific Palisades. Los Angeles. "Is anybody at your house?" She says yes, our housekeeper. "Listen, my brother lives in Encino, could you call your housekeeper and tell them that my brother, his name is Enrique, will come? I promise you we'll get it here for you. Don't worry. It's four o'clock in the afternoon, when do you need it?" They needed it by breakfast. "Don't worry." She picks up the phone, calls the housekeeper, she says this young man's brother's going to come get it, and is the dot bag with the medicine in it on the hall table? She says yes, Mrs. - whatever her name was. It's there. She looks, she hangs up the phone, he says we'll take care of you. She says, "Are you sure? We could go home" - nope. "My medicine's in there too!" Just relax, we're going to get it. He goes downstairs, tells his boss, listen, tells him what happened upstairs. He said, "Listen, I'm just starting the shift, what the hell - I'll go see my brother. Let me off. I'll go jump in a car, I'll go get it." He says okay. Kid drives to L.A., goes to his brother's house in Encino, picks up the bag, drives back, gets home at 3:30 or 4 in the morning, takes it to the bell. "See that this gets up to room XY" - Now, do you think those people will ever dream of this building as a normal hotel? Robinson: Right. Wynn: Okay. Kid tells the story - and that's a true story, it happened the first month years and years ago. Robinson: Okay. Wynn: Boss says in front of the other employees, "What a story that is!" Presses a button on the phone, and up comes our crew with camera and recorder. On the in-house Internet goes the story. Up on the wall within 3 hours is a great picture of this bellman, and his story in letters 3 inches tall on big paper signs in the staff area. Pretty much the whole city below this building, next to the staff dining room. We made a hero. We publish this story. Two things - the kid self-nominated himself for distinction. We made him famous! Number two - this is the part that matters. The other people in the room saw all this transpire. And every one of them says, "I gotta get me a story!" Robinson: Right. Wynn: Now I got 12,000 employees walking up and down this place, looking for one of you guests with a problem. They can't wait to interact. I got dealers going on break, that see a man or a woman looking around in this big place quizzically - "You look like you're lost, can I help you?" [Dealer] "Yeah, well we're trying to find the Lafite Ballroom." [Guest] "Well you go straight down to the Chinese restaurant, take a left - wait. Come with me, I'm gonna take you." [Dealer] "You don't have to take us yourself." [Guest] "It's okay, I'm on break, come on." [Dealer] They walked them to the - takes a 5 minute walk. Delays his break by a few minutes, he wasn't that hungry anyway. But he's got a story. And he's going up on the Internet tomorrow, and he's gonna be a hero. That culture of making these people responsible - in terms of their own self-esteem - is the power. It's the power that makes a guy like me sleep good at night. Because I'm driving the culture, the employees are driving the experience. It's about my people. You got the culture, you got the problem solved on the 18th floor. You don't got the culture, you can have cops everywhere. Won't mean a damn thing. Robinson: Got it. Steve Wynn, 2011 quote - "I'm saying it bluntly, this Obama administration is the greatest wet blanket to business and progress and job creation in my lifetime." It's 2014, Steve. Do you want to stick with that? Wynn: Absolutely. Robinson: You do? Wynn: Oh sure. And I think that what may have been a sort of outrageously, politically aggressive thing to say in 2011 has clearly come home now. The international president of my union, the restaurant and hotel employee union, has had his program exploded by Obamacare. He's begged the president, in letters and in writing to change it. Along with the Teamsters union. They've attacked their own base with the Obamacare. Here in Las Vegas, the unions gave a $700 a year increase to the union, and 100% of it went to healthcare program. And the head of the union says to me, when my members ask me for $700 a year, and I'm not getting a dime in my salary, it all went to healthcare, what am I getting in my health program that I didn't have last year? And it's absolutely nothing. The exact same program. I mean, whether it's over-regulation in a million areas, the amount of regulations published by the government in the last 6 years is staggering to anybody's imagination. There isn't a businessman in America you can talk to that won't repeat the same mantra. Whether he's a democrat or republican, and I've been more a democrat than republican in my day. And Harry Reid can attest to that. But the direction of the government - that the government's taken in the last few years is a disastrous. From a whole bunch of points of view is disastrous to the future health and vitality of our society. Robinson: You're the chairman of a publicly traded company, and yet when it comes to politics you take sides. Wynn: I take sides only on issues that pertain to the health of my workforce. Robinson: So - Wynn: I am watching my employees get paid in ninety-cent dollars. Although I have brought millions of dollars to the payroll of this American company from China - millions, tens of millions of dollars from China to my employees in America - it has not been able to offset the dramatic decrease in buying power of their paychecks. Walmart's more expensive, gas is more expensive, heating is more expensive, clothing is more expensive, why? Has everything in the world become more precious all of a sudden? Absolutely not. But the value of the dollar, the purchasing power of my employees of the working class of America is getting demolished by reckless fiscal policy in America. Exacerbated by this administration. Robinson: So do you wish more CEOs spoke up? What you're doing is unusual, to get that far out there in politics. Wynn: Listen, if you don't know the difference between good and bad you're a damned fool to begin with. If you don't have a sense of protection for your employees - if you don't understand where your benefit as a CEO lies, it's with the workforce. Then you shouldn't be holding that job. And if you know that it's your employees' welfare that matters, you're real concerned - not as a politician with rhetoric about the working class of America but as a guide that's paying the working class of America - I know what's happening to them. And they're getting squashed by government policy. And so is education in America, suffering from government policy. I mean any - this is not sound byte stuff. Robinson: Steve, last question. Your dad died at 47, leaving you in debt. You took several years to pay off those debts, as I recall, and yet you have said this. Quote - and I'm quoting you - "I'd give up everything for 15 minutes with my father. To have him walk through this hotel and see what happened." What would Michael Wynn say to his son Steve? Wynn: My dad gave me everything I needed to get here today. He gave me a great education, his love and affection, my mom and dad - I had the most perfect middle-class childhood. My father never graduated high school but was a self-educated man who read constantly, and constantly taught me the importance of being respectful who worked hard and were successful because it was hard to do. To be a hustler, to work hard, to not take a breath until you've accomplished what you're after, to have a work ethic. And he gave me all the tools that I needed that a father could ever give a son. To get to the point where I was armed for the battle, so to speak. My father was a pal of mine, a constant man who reinforced my insecurity when it occurred as it does with young men. My dad was the perfect dad. He had a problem with gaming, like so many people of that generation who made their own money, who never had a dime - when they get money they like to spend it. It's what's going on in China. First-generation wealth always attacks, because they think they can make more money. Second-generation's a little bit more controlled and disciplined. My father was like most first-generation Americans that were born before World War I. After World War II came into money and he was a consumer. So my dad had a problem but as a father - everything that he aspired to in life happened to me. And every dream my dad ever had came true with his son. Knowing what that would've meant to my father is so overwhelmingly exciting. That if my dad - there was a man in our city in upstate New York that was a Cadillac and tractor dealer. In then agricultural upstate New York. It was a good business. He flew around with a pilot in a twin-engine prop airplane, the little Piper Apache. My father said, "Hyde Sternberg has a pilot and a plane." That was like - I walk on my Boeing Business Jet, or any jet, or look at a painting, or see a building - my dad was a customer in Las Vegas at the Tropicana - if my dad could've seen these places. In my father's world, I was the perfect success, never mind what it means to me personally. To a guy like my dad, Mike Wynn, what I accomplished was the same thing as if I'd discovered a cure for cancer, if I'd won a Nobel prize. And knowing my father's personality, I can't help but think that one of the most spectacular that a person could experience would be to see his face, or to watch him process this, after the fact. Of course it's a complete fantasy but it's the kind of thing that you love to dream about. Robinson: This past May, Forbes ranked you as the 133rd richest person in the United States. That places you not just in the top 1% but in the top 1% of 1% of 1%. You're in good health - Wynn: Yeah. Robinson: But you're in your early 70s and although you have a lot more money than most people, you don't have anymore time than anybody else. You've got - you were diagnosed with an eye problem at the age of 29, it unfortunately progressive - Wynn: Mhm. Robinson: You said a moment ago that your dad taught you how to hustle. Why are you still hustling? Outside that window is a beautiful golf course. We have here a Picasso, a Lege [sp?], a Giaccometti, and that's just a fraction of your collection. Why don't you knock off? Golf, enjoy your collection. What keeps you hustling? Wynn: 'Cause I'm one of those rarely fortunate, really lucky people who's doing what he loves. Consequently I've never worked a day in my life. I love what I'm doing, I'm a student of creating spaces where people go "whoa, ah, wow". I love that idea. And I've never been able to do it perfectly. I always think I have to do one more hotel because maybe, just maybe, I'll get it right the next time. And that quest to keep doing it, being a student of something that you love, is the most fun a guy can have. And I've been given the privilege of chasing this star to my heart's content. By having the opportunity in China, where budget's not important, you can just build for the ages. It's like being a pharaoh in Egypt where you could build a pyramid! Robinson: Why isn't budget important in China? What do you mean by that? Wynn: Because the return on investment will be good no matter what you spend. Robinson: Got it, got it. Wynn: Gaming has always represented that in Las Vegas for most years. You could build a great hotel, you could justify the cost. I'm hoping that's true in Boston. I believe it is, so we can have the first great hotel in the city. There haven't been any in fifty years! There's no more Waldorfs, or Plazas anymore. The grand hotel doesn't work anymore in cities because the room, food, and beverage revenue doesn't justify the cost of construction. But if you can put a gaming room down the hall, like a ballroom, in a separate space... you can build a grand hotel in Boston. Bring back an age of grace. A beautiful place where you can bring children, because the gaming is off by itself. But I like places where everybody's excited, and it's a tricky thing to do because it's all about the emotion of the space. It's all about the way that a building or a place or a staff make somebody feel. And that's a dynamic assignment. It involves human resources, things like storytelling, and making everybody in the building think that the best thing that ever happened to them was working in this place because we're - you walk out of this room. Forget my interview. With your camera, grab any one of my employees. And you see what happens when you ask them "what's it like working here?" Robinson: I didn't have a camera but I asked a couple people serving bar last night, they like your hotel, Steve. Wynn: The newspaper hired an outside consulting firm - a review journal - to find out who was the best employer in town. And they did these big interviews. And they did a special Sunday section, and we won. And I didn't know what was going on until Mike Weaver called me up and told me, and read me what the employees said. Ah - it was ecstasy! "This is the greatest place to work because they listen to you here." "If you've got a good idea, they'll listen to you." "This is a great place to work because they're sensitive to your family problems. They work with you when you have those problems." "This is the best job I've ever had in my life." We're the best, this was the coolest place. There was this deep pride in belonging to the team, the family here. In other words, it wasn't just the onyx or the marble or the hand-woven carpets or the fancy chandeliers and reflected ceiling plants that are so expensive. It was the living organism that is the family of staff. And if you get all those things going at one time, listen - last thing I got to say. By definition, on this planet, from Asia to Europe from Latin America to Canada, there has to be a best whole place in the world to stay. Why can't it be here? Maybe we're the best hotel in the world. Maybe. Not for me to say. But you know what, from what I understand from anyone who's ever taken and reviewed this objectively, if we're not it, we're in the top 3. Now that's a kicky thing to be able to do. Robinson: (laughs) Steve Wynn - founder, chairman, and chief executive officer at Wynn Resorts, thank you. Shooting today in Las Vegas in Mr. Wynn's villa at the Wynn in Las Vegas, for the Hoover Institution and the Wall Street Journal, I'm Peter Robinson.
Wasn't that brilliant?

The Perfect Casino

The perfect casino is always open. It never closes a table, it never has to tinker with a machine. Anyone can reach it from anywhere without much of a commute. There's no dress code - some guests even play at the tables naked. The high rollers play next to the guys hustling with minimum bets. If you buy in with a feces-smeared $1 bill, your dealer smiles as big as the moon and wishes you good luck. Everyone is treated excellently. No one minds if you drink, smoke, or even shoot up heroin while you're playing. The drinkers, smokers, and drug users do not bother their fellow guests in any way. If you get trashed out of your mind, you won't get kicked out or judged. As long as you can play you're still doing fine. The gaming floor has infinite square footage. The tables have unlimited seats. There are so many machines that everyone can always access the one they want. All of the games are organized so well that it's a snap to find exactly what you want and sit down. No one is overwhelmed or intimidated. If you've never played before, the casino is more than happy to walk you through step-by-step. No inconvenience there. Because there is unlimited space, the casino likes to try out new games. Some are wacky but it's just part of catering to everyone and anyone. There is no "eye in the sky" or security force. The casino staff is 100% trustworthy and the casino really believes in their guests. Still, neither one could pull something shady if they wanted to. When you talk about the table games, you're talking about the best dealers in the world. Each one is flawless to the extent that they don't need a floor supervisor. In fact, there's no pit boss or vice president of gaming either. The dealers love their jobs so much that they don't accept or want tokes. This casino is where they thrive, where they're meant to be. It makes them so happy being here and dealing that they never get tired or hungry or thirsty. They never take breaks or start drama with one another or convey any negativity to the guests. The dealers shuffle so fast the process is done in the blink of an eye. They never have to turn the cards as part of the shuffle because every card has a perfect edge. They never have to riffle the cards before putting them into an auto-shuffler, because the guests trust them 100%. In fact, there is a process by which the guests can verify the fairness of the games. The casino welcomes them to do so. When you talk about the machines, they never break. No one has to swap the cash box at a certain point in the night, the monitors never get kind of fuzzy or dim, and new paper never needs to be loaded in for the TITO process. You can find just about any paytable or game variant. Even Double Triple Bonus Threes Wild Joker Poker. Some people walk away happy, some walk away sad. Some play for 36 hours straight and some just hop in for 5 minutes. Everyone, however, walks away knowing they got a fair chance.
In the physical world, it's not possible to have a perfect casino. The i-gaming sector is the only place where a theoretically "perfect" operation can occur. This is, of course, speaking more from a house perspective... We all know that the players' perfect casino is one where everyone wins on every hand. Every hand they're dealt blackjack on Spanish 21 plus make the perfect match, playing table max on everything. At Ging Gaming we're in the process of developing an online casino. A "perfect" place to play, one that we hope will fully utilize the opportunities allowed by i-gaming that seem underutilized thus far. You can follow our project on Twitter.