Industry veteran and current Chairman of Wynn Resorts, Phil Satre, was the opening keynote speaker at the Casino Marketing + Technology Conference this week. He joined Raving Consulting co-owner Deana Scott on stage for an extended Q&A session. Raving organizes the annual conference, which is being held in Reno for the first time after 22 years in Las Vegas.
Satre told the crowd about the major differences between Harrah’s (where he retired as chairman after 25 years) and Wynn.
“We were marketing-based (at Harrah’s). We targeted a middle-class customer with a good, but modest, budget. Our customers were high frequency, very gaming oriented and slot oriented. They loved the buffet and the parties that we held.”
“Steve Wynn’s approach was, ‘I’m going to compete on product. I don’t want anyone to have a better product than mine.’ And he spent money to achieve that goal, because he wanted the luxury customer.”
Toward that end, Satre said, “At Wynn Las Vegas, 60% to 70% of revenues are not from gaming. Sales per square foot (at the Wynn retail outlets) are better than they are on Rodeo Drive. That customer comes in and is focused on a luxury shopping experience, a luxury food and beverage experience, and a luxury hotel experience. So our casino isn’t the driver. It’s very important, but not the main driver (of revenues).”
Satre pointed to another difference between Harrah’s and Wynn. Steve Wynn thought slot machines were ugly. They destroyed the décor that he had worked so hard on and spent so much money on. All of a sudden, there’s this huge sign over a slot machine that’s flashing and competing with his beautiful chandeliers. That was always humorous to me. I really enjoyed interacting with customers and I knew they loved those machines.”
When asked what concerned him about the future of gaming, Satre expressed concerns about online sports betting and artificial intelligence. About AI, he said that knowing about your customers was vital, but if it goes to far with AI, “it could be viewed as invading their privacy.”
While he’s excited about online-casino games, he cited “some risks with sports betting that we couldn’t see when we changed the law.” He added that he had some trepidation about the ability to monitor betting effectively, in order to prevent problem-gaming and underage issues and underage.
No one in gaming has a better resume than Satre. In addition to his current role heading the Wynn casino properties in Las Vegas, Macau, and Boston, he served in virtually every executive position at Harrah’s, where he started his gaming career as their legal counsel before retiring as chairman of the board after 25 years. As a Stanford graduate and young lawyer, he worked for the law firm handling Bill Harrah’s automobile dealerships. He joined the gaming organization shortly after Mr. Harrah’s death in 1978. He was a key figure in the expansion of gaming with Harrah’s, first to Atlantic City and Las Vegas, then across the country with various tribal partners.
He also served as chairman of IGT, Nordstroms, and NV Energy. He won a Lifetime Achievement award from the American Gaming Summit and was inducted into the American Gaming Association’s Hall of Fame in 2003.
On the nonprofit side, he is a director at the National Automobile Museum, a member of the Stanford University Board of Trustees, a director of the National Center for Responsible Gaming, and chairman of the National World War II Museum.