Last week, Wynn Resorts (Nasdaq: WYNN ) opened Encore at Wynn Macau to much fanfare, adding 410 luxury suites, four lavish villas, and 61 gaming tables to its property in the offshore Chinese gambling haven. But onlookers here in the U.S. are buzzing about an entirely different development.
In an interview with CNBC, CEO Steve Wynn said that the company is considering relocating its corporate headquarters from Las Vegas to Macau.
Bam. Just like that.
Now listen: Despite what he said, Steve Wynn and Wynn Resorts are not going anywhere.
On the surface, the move might make some sense. Most of the company's profits come from abroad, and the disparity will only continue to grow as Wynn Resorts continues to build in Macau and penetrate new markets.
Last year, Wynn Macau generated $1.8 billion in net revenue and $502.1 million in EBITDA. On the other hand, Wynn's Las Vegas Strip operations -- Wynn Las Vegas and Encore at Wynn Las Vegas -- generated $1.4 billion in net revenue, but only $244.1 million in adjusted EBITDA. So the Macau operation is already more valuable than the Las Vegas ones, a gap that should widen with the introduction of Encore at Wynn Macau.
Moreover, Wynn is prepared to begin construction on yet another project in Macau beginning sometime next year. That project on Cotai is planned for a late 2013 opening.
So Wynn is already as much a Chinese company as an American one, if not more so.
And Macau is just the tip of the iceberg. Japan may very well be the next domino to fall, and it represents an opportunity that is every bit as attractive as Macau -- if not more so. In 2009, Japanese gamblers spent an estimated $255 billion on pachinko/pachislot gaming, or about four times the amount spent on commercial and Indian gaming in the United States. Yet there's no full-scale U.S.-style casino operation to capture that action in Japan. When that day comes, Wynn may have the inside track -- Japanese pachinko/pachislot/slot manufacturer Universal Entertainment owns 19.9% of Wynn Resorts' stock via a wholly owned subsidiary.
But all of that is mostly irrelevant.
Despite everything that Wynn has accomplished abroad, and despite everything he may accomplish in the future, Wynn's legacy is Las Vegas. And even if we assume that Wynn's announcement has nothing to do with his public views regarding President Obama's economic policies -- which is most likely the case -- it would seem a tough sell to get everybody at Wynn HQ in Las Vegas to pick up and move to Macau.