LAS VEGAS – Casino magnate Steve Wynn (search) opened his long-awaited Wynn Las Vegas (search) property just after the stroke of midnight Thursday to hordes of gamblers eager for a glimpse of the lavish $2.7 billion gambling, hotel and shopping complex.
The crowd spilled onto the Las Vegas Strip as security guards restricted the number of people allowed into the curved bronze tower.
Some waited as long as three hours to enter, then seemed awe-struck as they roamed deep apricot hallways carpeted in bright red with a purple and green floral motif and gazed up at intricately decorated ceilings.
"I think it's spectacular," said David Schwartz, coordinator of the Gaming Studies Research Center at the University of Nevada Las Vegas (search).
The five-year project "has elements of Wynn's earlier casinos evolved and carried to the next level," he said.
Located toward the northern end of the fast-growing city's fabled gambling corridor, the 2,700-room tower marks Wynn's first new project since the opening in 1998 of the Bellagio resort, now owned by MGM Mirage (MGG).
The interior of Wynn Las Vegas has textured wall coverings, dramatic draperies, mosaic floors and whimsical light fixtures. Wynn, who created the themed resort, chose to focus on luxury at this property and each area — casino, lounge and others — has a color scheme often mirrored in employee uniforms.
A central atrium with pools and flowers arches between two main entrances and allows access to shops and restaurants without going across the casino floor.
Curved escalators lead down to a patio facing a large pool, the "Lake of Dreams," with a 70-foot wall of water cascading at its back. Periodically, the wall turns into a multimedia theatrical show complete with animatronic creatures.
Skylights and floor-to-ceiling windows in many areas bring daylight in and fresh flowers are abundant.
"I love the primitive graphics. It's really unique — a combination of the primitive and very sophisticated," said Las Vegas resident Marlene DeMarco. "This would be hard to top."
The primitive thread extends to the sound system, which often pipes world-beat music through the casino.
"Wynn is raising the visibility of Las Vegas ... it's a lot of free advertising for us," said Jim Murren, chief financial officer of rival MGM Mirage.
Wynn told Vanity Fair in an upcoming article that he sought to employ elements of Renaissance architecture in his latest project, but chose to avoid building a "themed" resort like other Vegas destination casinos.
"I didn't think that a themed hotel was the thing to do anymore. Why would anybody want to build a replica?" he said.
The price tag for Wynn Las Vegas falls short of the record $3 billion spent on a hotel in Abu Dhabi, but Wynn has already started work on a $1.4 billion expansion next door.
The exterior of the property is obscured by a small man-made mountain covered with trees, waterfalls and a lake, which offer dramatic views from inside the casino resort.
Wynn Las Vegas was originally dubbed "Le Reve" after a Picasso painting and Wynn's art collection still holds a prominent role in the resort's bid to provide guests with a VIP experience, although the gallery was not yet open.
The complex also sports 18 restaurants, some run by celebrity chefs, theaters, a spa and dozens of designer boutiques along with a Ferrari Maserati dealership.
"The best thing about it is that the casino is away from everything else," a security guard said. "You don't have to be bothered with it when you go to dinner."