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The Mirage celebrated it's 20th anniversary recently and it's time to give credit where credit is due. The Mirage was the first "mega casino" to be built from the ground up on the Las Vegas Strip. Before the Mirage most casinos worried about keeping the visitors on the casino floor and spending all their money on gambling. Steve Wynn, the man who built the Mirage, had a different vision. Wynn's vision was that of a hotel he visited as a child in South Florida, the world famous Fontainebleau.

Wynn liked the service, the glamor and class of a five star hotel. He knew then that was what he wanted to accomplish. A five star hotel casino in Las Vegas. The Mirage was also the first casino that was funded with the aid of junk bonds. Remember the name Michael Milken, The Mirage cost 630 million dollars mostly funded by junk bonds with the help of Milken. Wynn emphasizes service with his vision for The Mirage. Wynn was the first casino owner that knew you needed to give the patron more than just a casino and rooms.

He built The Mirage to be a spectacle to come see. From the enormous aquarium in the lobby, to the fiery volcano that erupts on the hour in front of the casino. Wynn would later add a dolphin experience in the back of the hotel. Wynn also signed the hottest show on the strip at the time. Sigfried and Roy were signed as the first act at The Mirage. They featured their white tigers in a glass enclosure in a prominent viewing area inside The Mirage .

View the building of The Mirage from the ground up time lapse video here. A popular story about where some of the money came from that funded the Mirage is an incredible story of ingenuity. Whether you like Steve Wynn or hate him, you have to admire him for this little two-step he pulled off to begin his career as a casino mogul. Wynn makes a small property purchase with a purpose. With the consent of Caesars Palace owner Clifford Perlman, Wynn bought a narrow, one-acre slice of the Strip.

The property was next to Caesars Palace at Flamingo road trip slots. Originally owned by Hughes Tool Company (owned by Howard Hughes) in 1971. He then announced to the world that he would build a casino there to compete with Caesars. It was a way to get Caesars to buy him out. In 1972, Wynn got the deal the wanted-he sold the land to Caesars for $2.25 million. Wynn's share, after repaying a loan, was $687,000. Wynn although dogged by accusations of ties to organized crime, pressed through and became a vice president for the Golden Nugget and then later becoming CEO.

He signed Frank Sinatra to sing at the Nugget in Atlantic City and Las Vegas and the mafia rumors persisted. The Las Vegas Strip has always been built by those of questionable character and thrived. From the forward looking Bugsy Siegel, who saw Las Vegas for what it could be. To people like Lefty Rosenthal and Mickey Cohen. Las Vegas was built by the mafia and this is inescapable. If it weren't for the mafia Las Vegas would never have made it.

So the fact Wynn may have had some backing by the mafia is not improbable for the time. MGM purchases The Mirage and it's sister properties for 6.7 million dollars. The Mirage and it's sister properties were purchased by MGM for a total of 6.7 billion dollars and Wynn vowed never to go public again with share holders if he ever owned another property. Wynn took his money from the purchase and bought the Desert Inn "as a present for his wife". He later implode the DI and built the Wynn and later the Encore.

Whatever is said in the end about Steve Wynn, he ushered in a new era to Las Vegas with The Mirage. He started the trend of the mega casino. Now the question with all these mega casinos that popped up in the late 90's and this half of the early century remains. How big is too big? Harrah's and MGM Mirage both own more than 10 casinos in Las Vegas alone. With City Center now open, it is a legitimate question. It is doubtful the government will bail out these huge mega casinos when they fail as they bailed out the banks that were too large to fail.

sources: www.mirage.com www.lvrj.com
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