“The Rise and Fall of Steve Wynn: A Controversial Figure in Las Vegas History” is a captivating documentary that delves into the life and career of Steve Wynn, a man who played a significant role in shaping the casino industry and the city of Las Vegas. From his humble beginnings to his rise as a casino mogul, the documentary covers Wynn’s journey, including his successes with iconic establishments like the Mirage, Treasure Island, and Bellagio, as well as the numerous challenges and controversies he faced along the way. With allegations of mistreatment towards employees and sexual misconduct, Wynn’s story takes a tragic turn, leading to his resignation from Wynn Resorts and his fall from grace.

This thought-provoking documentary explores the complexities of a man who changed the face of Las Vegas while simultaneously facing personal and legal turmoil. It sheds light on the influence and impact of Wynn’s career, leaving viewers to contemplate the legacy of a figure whose story is both inspiring and disheartening.

Early Life and Entrance into the Gaming Industry

Wynn’s childhood and upbringing

Steve Wynn, born Stephen Allen Weinberg, had a rather privileged upbringing in Utica, New York. His father, Michael Weinberg, ran several bingo parlors along the east coast, exposing young Steve to the gambling industry early on. However, Steve’s father had a severe gambling addiction, which ultimately led to financial troubles for the family. This experience would later impact Steve’s perspective on gambling and inform his decisions in the gaming industry.

Steve Wynn’s father changed the family name to Wynn a few years after he was born, claiming it was to avoid anti-Jewish discrimination. However, some speculate that it was a direct result of his father’s controversial lifestyle. Despite his father’s struggles, Steve was sent to exclusive private schools and received a top-notch education. He graduated from The Manlius School, an expensive private school designed to keep him away from the bingo parlor business.

Wynn’s early ventures in the gaming industry

After graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and briefly attending Yale Law School, Steve Wynn received devastating news in March 1963. His father had passed away during open-heart surgery, leaving behind a significant gambling debt of over $350,000. Determined to save his family from financial ruin, Wynn entered the bingo parlor industry, turning it around and ultimately selling it.

In 1967, armed with a $30,000 loan and $15,000 of his own money, Wynn bought into a group redeveloping the New Frontier casino on the Las Vegas Strip. However, this project ended up being financed with money linked to the Detroit Mafia. The scandal had a lasting impact on Wynn, and he ended up selling his shares to Howard Hughes for $25 million. This experience taught him valuable lessons about the inner workings of the Las Vegas casino industry.

Wynn’s purchase of the Golden Nugget Las Vegas

In 1973, Steve Wynn became the majority shareholder of the Golden Nugget in Downtown Las Vegas. At the time, Wynn was not only the youngest casino owner in the city, but also the driving force behind the revitalization of Downtown Las Vegas. He transformed the Golden Nugget into a premier destination, attracting top-tier performers such as Frank Sinatra and Dolly Parton to its stages. Wynn’s success at the Golden Nugget set the stage for his future ventures and solidified his position in the gaming industry.

The Mirage and the New Era of Las Vegas

Introduction of The Mirage

In 1989, Steve Wynn introduced The Mirage, a groundbreaking hotel and casino that would forever change the landscape of Las Vegas. The Mirage was the first major resort to be built on the Las Vegas Strip in 16 years, and its grand opening was a highly anticipated event. It was designed to transport visitors to a tropical paradise, complete with a lush rainforest, a 20,000-gallon aquarium, and an extravagant volcano that erupted nightly.

Impact of The Mirage on Las Vegas

The Mirage had a profound impact on Las Vegas, bringing a new level of luxury and entertainment to the city. It set the bar higher for future resorts, prompting a wave of development and renovations on the Strip. The Mirage’s success demonstrated that Las Vegas could cater to a broader audience beyond just gamblers. It became a destination for families and tourists seeking world-class entertainment, innovative attractions, and luxurious accommodations.

Trend set by The Mirage for the next decade

The Mirage set the trend for the next decade of casino development in Las Vegas. It pioneered the concept of themed resorts, combining entertainment, dining, and gambling into one extravagant package. This new approach to resort design, coupled with Wynn’s attention to detail and commitment to customer service, cemented his reputation as an industry visionary. The Mirage’s success paved the way for Wynn’s future ventures and inspired other developers to rethink their approach to casino design and hospitality.

Expansion and High-End Focus

Opening of Treasure Island

Building on the success of The Mirage, Steve Wynn opened Treasure Island in 1993. This pirate-themed resort featured a large outdoor show with battles between pirate ships and a sinking British frigate. The show, along with its distinctive exterior design, became iconic and drew large crowds. Treasure Island continued Wynn’s trend of offering unique experiences and captivating entertainment alongside its casino offerings.

Construction of the Bellagio

After the success of The Mirage and Treasure Island, Wynn set his sights on an even more ambitious project – the construction of the Bellagio. This luxurious resort, inspired by the town of Bellagio in Italy’s Lake Como region, aimed to redefine elegance and opulence in Las Vegas. The Bellagio featured a world-renowned fountain show, high-end shopping, gourmet dining, and a state-of-the-art casino. Its opening in 1998 solidified Wynn’s reputation as a pioneer in upscale casino resorts.

Wynn’s focus on attracting high-end visitors

Throughout his ventures, Steve Wynn emphasized attracting high-end visitors to Las Vegas. He believed that the future of the city lay in catering to a discerning clientele seeking luxury and world-class experiences. By incorporating lavish amenities, top-tier entertainment, and fine dining, Wynn positioned his resorts as destinations for the affluent and those seeking a more refined Vegas experience.

Legal Challenges and Allegations

Lawsuits and legal battles faced by Wynn

Despite his successes in the gaming industry, Steve Wynn faced numerous lawsuits and legal challenges throughout his career. These challenges ranged from business-related disputes and contract disagreements to accusations of misconduct and mistreatment.

Allegations of mistreatment towards employees

Several lawsuits were filed against Steve Wynn and his companies, alleging mistreatment and improper conduct towards employees. These allegations included claims of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. The lawsuits painted a troubling picture of a company culture that tolerated and even enabled such behavior.

Impact of legal challenges and allegations on Wynn’s reputation

The legal challenges and allegations had a significant impact on Steve Wynn’s reputation. They cast a shadow over his achievements as a visionary in the casino industry and raised questions about the ethics and integrity of his business practices. Wynn’s once-impeccable image suffered, tarnishing his legacy and leaving a stain on his contributions to Las Vegas.

The Wynn and Personal Challenges

Opening of The Wynn

In 2005, Steve Wynn opened his latest and final Las Vegas property, appropriately named The Wynn. The resort, backed by a $2.7 billion investment, was heralded as the epitome of luxury and elegance. The Wynn featured a unique design, impeccable service, and a range of amenities catering to the high-end market.

Wynn’s personal life challenges

Apart from his professional triumphs, Steve Wynn faced significant personal challenges throughout his life. This included his highly publicized divorces from his first wife Elaine and later from his second wife, Elaine Pascal. These divorces brought additional scrutiny and negative publicity to Wynn’s personal life, further impacting his public image.

Various lawsuits and their impact

Steve Wynn’s personal and professional life was marred by various lawsuits. These legal battles ranged from disputes with business partners and contractors to allegations of defamation and invasion of privacy. The litigious nature of Wynn’s career added to the overall uncertainty and controversy surrounding his empire.

Allegations of Sexual Misconduct and Resignation

Emergence of sexual misconduct allegations

In 2018, allegations of sexual misconduct against Steve Wynn surfaced, rocking the casino industry and beyond. Multiple women came forward, accusing Wynn of sexual harassment and assault. The allegations painted a disturbing picture of abuse of power and a disregard for the well-being of employees.

Implications on Wynn’s career

The allegations of sexual misconduct dealt a severe blow to Wynn’s career and reputation. They resulted in a downward spiral for the once-powerful casino mogul, leading to serious consequences for his businesses and personal life. Wynn became synonymous with the #MeToo movement and its call for accountability, forever changing how he would be remembered in the gaming industry.

Resignation from Wynn Resorts

As the allegations gained traction, Steve Wynn resigned as CEO and chairman of Wynn Resorts, the company bearing his name. This marked a stunning downfall for a man who had once been at the pinnacle of success in the casino industry. Wynn’s resignation signaled the end of an era and left a void in the Las Vegas gaming landscape.

Impact on the Casino Industry and Las Vegas

Wynn’s contribution to the casino industry

Despite the controversy surrounding Steve Wynn, his contributions to the casino industry cannot be overlooked. His innovative resorts, focus on luxury, and commitment to customer experience revolutionized Las Vegas. Wynn’s properties set the standard for excellence and inspired developers and operators to raise the bar in terms of quality and entertainment offerings.

Influence on the development of Las Vegas

Steve Wynn played a significant role in shaping the development and identity of Las Vegas as a world-class entertainment destination. His resorts brought a new level of sophistication and glamour to the city, attracting a more diverse and discerning audience. Wynn’s influence can be seen in the architectural design, entertainment offerings, and overall approach to hospitality in modern Las Vegas.

Legacy despite the controversy

While Steve Wynn’s legacy is clouded by controversy, his impact on the casino industry and Las Vegas cannot be ignored. His vision and ambition transformed a struggling gambling town into a thriving, globally recognized entertainment capital. Wynn’s contributions will forever be a part of Las Vegas’s history, despite the unfortunate events that overshadowed his later years.


The rise and fall of Steve Wynn represents a compelling and tragic chapter in Las Vegas history. From his early ventures in the gaming industry to the new era he ushered in with The Mirage, Wynn’s impact on Las Vegas is undeniable. However, his legacy is marred by legal challenges, allegations, and the eventual downfall that came with the emergence of sexual misconduct accusations.

Steve Wynn’s story serves as a reminder of the complicated nature of fame, success, and power. It highlights the need for accountability and integrity in the casino industry and beyond. Despite the controversy, Wynn’s contributions cannot be overlooked, as his innovative resorts and focus on luxury forever shaped the landscape of Las Vegas.