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Amid all the hype and uncertainty swirling around the fate of WynnBet, the interactive arm of retail gaming giant Wynn Resorts, one fact is certain: the Wynn group, who own six high-end casinos, three in Vegas, three in Macau, haven’t quite mastered the art of online and seem much happier playing with real-world building blocks.
How else can you explain the clunky pitch that Wynn–founded in 2002 by former Las Vegas Mirage Resorts Chair and CEO Steve Wynn and Kazuo Okada–is willing to off-load its sportsbook for a bargain-basement US$500 million?
Wynn is a company that’s no stranger to rumour, controversy, disruption, having been roiled over the years by allegations of corruption, and a number of sexual harassment lawsuits.
Only months ago—amid merger talks with special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) Austerlitz Acquisition Corp to bring Wynn Interactive to public offering–their iGaming vertical was valued at US$3.2 billion (£2.37bn/€2.84bn).
That proposed deal has since been dropped. But WynnBet is, nevertheless, still worth at least US$700 million (£519.8m/€622.7m), market assessors concur.
And, crucially, Wynn Interactive is poised to get a licence to operate in New York State — currently, the hottest iGaming market on the planet, reporting a US$150 million (£111.38m/€133.44m) take on its very first weekend of action earlier this month.
The company has also pre-registered its WynnBet app for the imminent launch of sports betting in Louisiana, adding to the 15-odd states, covering over half the US population, where it already operates.
Wynn, meantime, are not helping matters by declining to publicly scotch the sell-off rumours, which have surfaced, somewhat ironically, as their Interactive CEO Craig Billings girds his loins to move across, and up, to assume full mentorship of both Wynn Resorts and Wynn Macau.
Amid the rumours, the company, which boasted assets in the region of US$14 billion at last counting, has been happy to confirm a much more traditional deal with—of all places—the gambling-free United Arab Emirates (UAE).
On Tuesday (January 24) Wynn publicly announced that it will build a multibillion-dollar 1,000-room luxury hotel, with 10 restaurants and lounges, a spa, a convention centre, shopping mall and a “gaming” area in Ras al-Khaimah.
Perhaps it was indeed lost in translation but Wynn did not specify if “gaming”, in this context, was a synonym for gambling.
Last time we looked all forms of betting are outlawed under Muslim sharia holy law.
Yet the UAE, led by Dubai, has increasingly relaxed rules and pleasures for non-Muslim tourists. And further liberalisation seems the best way forward for The Gulf States to counter growing holiday destination competition elsewhere.
Indeed, something truly game-changing may be on the cards.
WynnBet brand ambassadors, such as basketball legend Shaquille O’Neal and actor-director Ben Affleck, may soon be extolling the virtues of a “gaming” oasis in the desert — much like Frank Sinatra and the “Rat Pack” put Nevada on the entertainment map in the 1960s.
Welcome to Ras Vegas.