In the Wake of Wynn’s Departure, Everybody’s Got a Theory

We rate them on a plausibility index.

It’s not exactly the Kennedy assassination or 9/11, but Steve Wynn’s decision to withdraw his bid for Philadelphia’s second casino license has people hazarding all kinds of guesses as to the reason for his departure — some of them better than others. We’ve created a plausibility index from 1 to 5 with 5 being “Very Plausible” and 1 being “Oh Please.”

Competition with New York. Wynn said the recent approval to expand casino gambling in New York State was a key factor in his decision. But the NY casinos aren’t going to be anywhere near Philadelphia; the legislation was motivated by a desire to generate jobs in upstate New York. The Times reports that developers are expressing particular interest in the Catskills. Was Wynn really worried that the Catskills would steal patrons from Fishtown? On the other hand, Wynn was hoping the casino would serve as a resort destination that would draw people from all over the country, and perhaps even internationally because that’s the scale he typically works with. If something very grand is ultimately built in New York, will that be competition at some point down the line? Perhaps. Rating: 2

Wynn wants Boston more. At the same time he’s been pitching Philadelphia, he’s also been pitching Everett, Mass., aka, the Boston gaming market. Though he paid lip service to creating a complex that honor Philadelphia’s particularity, his renderings for the Everett complex were identical to those of Philadelphia. (Inga Saffron compared him to P.T. Barnum.) Was it likely that he’d create two identical properties in the Northeast U.S? It was not. Though he was a front-runner here, he was by no means a shoe-in, especially after the city expressed its preference for a Center City casino. Boston has been giving him a rough time. Losing here could have made Boston even tougher. Rating: 5

Current state of Philadelphia’s gaming industry. Wynn also said he was concerned by numbers from the last year. Is he referring to the fact that table games revenue went down? Because he surely wasn’t referring to the fact that slots revenues went up. In 2012, Philadelphia was No. 6 of the top 20 U.S. casino markets by annual revenue, according to the American Gaming Association. Between 2011 and 2012, Pennsylvania’s gaming revenues went up up up. In 2012, Pennsylvania moved past New Jersey for the first time in gaming revenue. The Greater Philadelphia area is obviously a part of that. Even if there’s been a dip this year, the momentum is in our favor. And it’s not as though Wynn has never entered a market that’s had ups and downs. He’s a mogul. Moguls don’t get scared off by vacillations. Rating: 1

Philadelphia schools are terrible. Philly mag’s Gene Marks wrote a piece in which he suggested that Wynn would have stayed if Philly schools were better. “If Steve Wynn moved his family to Philadelphia, do you really think he’s sending his kids to a Philadelphia public school? Could he stand up in front of the key people he’s moving here and tell them to do the same for their kids?” Steve Wynn is never moving to Philadelphia. His two daughters are adults who have children of their own. He’s not supposed to move people here; the whole point of the casino license in Philadelphia is to provide jobs to people who live here. Wynn has casinos in Vegas, one of the worst school systems in the country. Is he worried about the Philadelphia School District? Rating: 1

Wynn is international. The bulk of Wynn’s profit comes from his casinos overseas, and that’s where his focus is. In October, Wynn said, “You know that we are primarily an Asian company. Thank goodness, and God bless that, and we intend to stay an Asian company primarily.” says, “He just may have had a belly-full of nit-picking U.S. regulators and carping media raking casino companies over the coals.” In other words: Wynn has to pick his domestic projects judiciously. If he gets the sense that one of them isn’t going to work, he’s out. Rating: 4

He’d rather be online in New Jersey. Wynn has demonstrated an interest in Internet gambling, and both the Atlantic Club and Revel are up for grabs in Atlantic City with a built-in Internet gaming component. Philly doesn’t have an online component, so maybe AC is more appealing. Rating: 1

Fear of SugarHouse. SugarHouse, also in the Wynn Philadelphia neighborhood, announced an expansion. Perhaps Wynn was worried that he couldn’t compete. With SugarHouse. Rating: 1

There are many other theories floating around. Our best guess (given what we’ve heard from confidential sources) is that he knew he wasn’t going to win — in part due to back-room political complications that had nothing to do with traffic studies or potential revenue.

We asked Bart Blatstein, who’s vying for the license for his Provence Casino concept, if he had a theory of his own about why Wynn pulled out. Here’s what he said:

“I had heard rumors of such but I was still surprised. I believe that our project is head and shoulders above any other and its impact on the state and the city are tremendous. We have put forth a great plan and we’re working as hard as ever.” Rating: N/A