Escaping Steve Wynn’s legal ax
He's no Donald Trump!
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
March 8, 2004
Trump (NBC The Apprentice)
Wynn (Associated Press photo)
Donald Trump got his startup money the old fashioned way, he inherited
it. Las Vegan Steve Wynn, well, we're still speculating on how he became
a rich guy so early in his career.
"Dealing with the latest development first, it can be shown that there
are numerous strong connections between GNI (Golden Nugget, Inc.), some
of its officers and so called "key employees" and the Genovese Cosa Nostra
family based in New York and New Jersey... The strong inference which can
be drawn from the new intelligence is that Stephen Wynn, the President
of GNI, has been operating under the aegis of the Genovese family since
he first went to Las Vegas in the 1960s to become a stockholder in the
New Frontier casino."
These are ostensibly the words of Detective, Chief Inspector D. Sparks
and Detective Constable Summers of New Scotland Yard in a 1983 intelligence
report prepared in response to Wynn's request for a gaming license in the
United Kingdom. Wynn later withdrew his request.
In 1994, a third-generation photocopy of the 113 page Scotland Yard
confidential report on Wynn was delivered to two journalists in Nevada.
Las Vegas Review Journal columnist John L. Smith received one set, I received
the other. The fallout caused by our dissemination of information contained
in the report has been resounding in courtrooms ever since.
After first reading the report, I immediately called Scotland Yard and
asked to speak to Inspector Sparks. He did not agree to speak to me. I
ask his secretary if she had knowledge of the report and she would not
confirm nor deny its existence.
I began contacting local writers and reporters to inquire whether they
had also received the same intriguing package. After a half dozen inquires,
I was informed by John Smith that he had received the report the same week
as I. We both confirmed that to the best of our combined knowledge no other
writer or reporter had been sent a copy. We wondered why we had been the
only ones selected to receive this information?
We were probably selected because both of us had generated investigative
reports on Steve Wynn. Smith often wrote of Wynn in his Review Journal
column, and I often reported Wynn's activities on my 2 hour daily radio
My program became of interest to radio stations in New England at the
time when Wynn first made a proposal to build a billion dollar hotel/casino
in Hartford, Connecticut. He wanted to compete with the ultra successful
Foxwoods Casino operated by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe, and New Englanders
wanted to know more about him while the Connecticut legislature pondered
changing the law to accommodate his plans.
Because of the burgeoning interest in the subject of casinos, my program
was picked up by super station WTIC in Hartford and WICC
in Bridgeport. Listeners up and down the eastern seaboard joined in the
discussion with Las Vegas callers and my guest reporters. It seemed that
everyone Back East wanted to know what we already knew about the plus and
minus sides of gambling, and especially about the mysterious Mr. Wynn.
On one of the programs, then-Las Vegas Mayor Jan Jones called into WTIC's
toll-free line to express her belief that Wynn’s casino would be a benefit
to the citizens of Connecticut. She also stated that "Steve Miller does
not represent the mainstream of Las Vegas society."
Her statements caused many in Nevada to raise an eyebrow at a time when
extra-Nevada gambling competition was proliferating and gaming revenues
in Downtown Las Vegas were diminishing because of outside competition.
This was not the first time Jones was caught doing Wynn a favor.
That same year, Mayor Jones appointed Kenneth Wynn, Steve's brother,
to be in charge of the largest public works project in the history of the
City of Las Vegas; the $64 million dollar canopy over historic Fremont
Street. Under her direction, the City Council failed to put the project
out to public bid as is always required.
Though he did not hold a Nevada General Contractor's License, Kenneth
Wynn was nonetheless allowed by the City Council to supervise the construction
and appoint sub contractors.
Kenneth Wynn's gaming license at Mirage Resorts had been suspended for
a narcotics violation several months prior to Jones appointing him the
project manager. When asked, Jones defended her decision and downplayed
Kenneth Wynn's narcotics problems and gaming license suspension. Kenneth
Wynn's gaming license was reinstated shortly following the completion of
the canopy; a project that has since proven to be a white elephant.
(On February 25, 2004, according to law enforcement sources, Kenneth
Wynn was served with a search warrant at his home in connection with a
While broadcasting in Connecticut, I featured John L. Smith and his
fellow Vegas columnist Jon Ralston on several programs. They discussed
local front page stories they authored about Wynn comping members of the
"five families" at his hotel, and about Wynn threatening to sue then-Clark
County Sheriff John Moran for arresting the crime family members for not
registering as ex-felons upon entering the city.
I also told the story of 70 senior citizens who were being displaced
from their mobile home park to make way for an employee parking lot for
one of Wynn's hotels. Many of the park residents had lived in the park
for over 35 years and were too old or sick to move, and many more did not
have the funds to find another home.
The saddest part was that a community had formed. The residents were
a coalescent support group for each other and breaking up such long term
friendships was one of the cruelest things I have ever observed.
Wynn began by reportedly offering park residents about $4,000 each to
move out early. If they did not go immediately, he reportedly began reducing
the offer each month until they did. Many left, but many more stayed because
they could not afford to go. Wynn then reportedly began cutting off their
life support systems one by one.
First to go were the pay phones; then the gardeners; then the security;
and finally the water and power. A few more senior citizens moved, but
most held on to what had been their humble trailer homes for many years.
Park residents elected one of their younger neighbors as a spokeswoman.
She went to the local press with the revolting story but few media outlets
responded. Those that did downplayed the story. The spokeswoman asked my
radio audience to help her organize a demonstration on the once-public
sidewalk in front of the Mirage. She and many of the seniors were given
opportunity to tell their story and listeners in Connecticut paid close
The day of the demonstration, several dozen senior citizens who were
being displaced, many in wheelchairs, showed up to tell anyone who would
listen that they were heartlessly being forced from their homes with no
alternative housing offered. They also wanted to tell of their extended
family. Unexplainably, not one local media outlet covered their 4 hour
The residents went back to their dingy trailers defeated. One resident
who spent the day in front of the Mirage, a 98 year old man, passed away
several days later.
The only response to the sidewalk demonstration was a bill draft presented
to the Nevada legislature -- and obediently passed at their next session.
"Wynn’s Law" allowed the privatization of Strip sidewalks effectively prohibiting
such demonstrations in the future. That unconstitutional law is in force
After several weeks of free-flowing information, New Englanders had
heard enough. Wynn evidently knew it was time to fold his cards. He withdrew
his gaming application the day before the legislature was scheduled to
My hard hitting reports cost me my radio
program and inspired a threatened lawsuit by Wynn. But that was not
Following the withdrawal of his application, The Ralston Report quoted
Wynn's statement from the Hartford Courant and Bridgeport Post:
"I came here to educate you about how good gaming would be for Connecticut,
but instead you listened to that lunatic (Steve Miller)."
Wynn allegedly told reporters in New England and Chicago that I had
been personally responsible for killing his Connecticut casino plan because
of my radio shows. The story began to spread.
I also received inquiries from reporters in Vancouver, B.C. and Australia
where Wynn had additional casino plans. I readily shared the substantiated
information in my files, though it was not my intention to harm his projects.
Nonetheless, all his extra-Nevada casino efforts soon crumbled under his
own weight while he used my name again and again as a scapegoat for his
One day, an ABC News crew from Chicago appeared on my doorstep wanting
to verify Wynn's claim that I scuttled his riverboat casino license in
West Dundee, Illinois. I told them I don't even know where West Dundee,
Illinois is! In the meantime, all news of my conflict with Wynn was blacked
out in Las Vegas. Every local reporter knew of the ongoing story, but their
editors were evidently told to keep a lid on it so as not to offend anyone.
Before Wynn's acquiescence in New England, the radio programs became
so fervent that at times my on-air guests simultaneously included the mayors
of Hartford and Bridgeport expressing concern about Wynn's casino scheme,
joined by Mayor Jan Jones of Las Vegas with the omnipresent representatives
of Wynn's Mirage Resorts, Inc. promoting the scheme. Even the Governor
of Connecticut once called in live to express his concerns and reservations.
In the middle of the fray, Wynn's attorney Terry Jones called me. He
stated his client intended to sue me personally along with the stations
carrying my show if I did not cancel the program immediately and write
a retraction and apology to be dictated by his law firm.
I also know when to fold my cards. I complied with his demands on March
19, 1993 because I know how much it cost to litigate, especially against
someone with unlimited resources, and because the radio program was not
making a profit.
However I chose a rather unusual medium on which to pen my apology and
retraction. I utilized the back of a paper grocery bag which Mirage attorneys
had no other choice but to accept, though they tried to convince me otherwise.
The day my bagged apology and retraction was delivered to Mr. Jones'
office, he called to say Mr. Wynn would not look kindly on my method. He
asked if he could come over to my house within the hour. I said yes and
eagerly awaited his arrival.
Soon several attorneys and legal secretaries arrived. I graciously invited
them in and offered refreshments which they refused. Mr. Jones opened his
leather attaché and placed my grocery bag on the coffee table. He
asked, "Did you produce this instrument?" I said I did. He then gestured
to a women who rudely shoved my shopping bag aside and placed a typed 8-1/2
x 14 legal transcript of my retraction and apology in front of me.
Mr. Jones offered forth his Montblanc pen as his secretary pulled a
Notary Book and chrome Notary Seal embosser from her purse. "Mr. Miller,
please sign here and I will notarize your signature," said the stern faced
I looked around the room gazing into the eyes of each of my guests.
I took my time in what might be called a pregnant pause. You could hear
a pin drop. Then I said very quietly, "Would Picasso sign a photo copy
of one of his masterpieces?" My guests left in silence, and I have
not heard from them since.
Undaunted, I began contacting literary agents to inquire whether there
would be interest in a book I would author about the episode, a book that
would include the now infamous Scotland Yard Report.
Page One (FULL
Because Wynn was not that well known on a national scale, and because
it would be my first literary effort, there was no interest in my book
proposal. But veteran author John L. Smith persisted and found an enthusiastic
publisher for Running Scared - the Life and Treacherous Times
of Las Vegas Casino King Steve Wynn.
In his book Smith stated, "Miller also penned an apology to Wynn, scribbled
on a paper grocery sack."
This one statement probably infuriated Wynn more than the entire book!
A lawsuit was filed against Smith and his publisher, Lyle Stuart of Barricade
On the book's revised cover sheet, Stuart wrote, "When Running Scared
was originally announced in hardcover, Wynn filed a libel lawsuit in Nevada
against Barricade Books for its catalog description of him, and in Kentucky
against the book itself. The trial took place in Las Vegas before a judge
whose husband, after the trial, was given a high-paying executive job in
one of Wynn's casinos."
Wynn's judge, Sally Loehrer
(LV SUN photo)
Stuart continued, "To his adoring public, Wynn has always acted the
benevolent Las Vegas promoter — appearing in commercials with Frank Sinatra,
posing for photographs with politicians, schmoozing with Michael Jackson.
His elaborate PR machine would have us believe that his meteoric rise to
the top was a result of ambition, hard work, and charismatic leadership
alone. But Wynn has been accused of shadow-waltzing precariously close
to the wise-guy underworld that — at least in Las Vegas — is said to decide
who stayed, and who didn't."
"Running Scared documents Wynn's rapid rise to wealth and power.
It examines the rumor about his connections to the Genovese crime family.
It explores his stormy relationship with Donald Trump. It explains why
a confidential Scotland Yard report deprived him of a license to open a
casino in London. And of course, it tells about his partnership with the
man who was there to finance it all, Michael Milken, the six-time convicted
felon of Drexel Burnham junk-bond infamy," concluded Stuart.
The lawsuit against the publisher stemmed from
having changed one word in his original catalog description sent to book
sellers. He stated in the original description, "Wynn, the President
of GNI, has been operating as a
front man of the Genovese family
since he first went to Las Vegas in the 1960s to become a stockholder in
the New Frontier casino."
The replacement of the word "aegis" with "front man," along
with flawed jury instructions from Clark County District Court Judge Sally
Loehrer, was enough for the jury to rule in Wynn's favor. Stuart testified
that he felt that front man meant the same as aegis, and
would be better understood by American readers. The jury disagreed after
hearing from an English professor hired by Wynn's legal team who testified
that the two words have completely different meanings.
The expert stated that aegis means being under the protection
of someone either known or unknown. He explained that a front man would
be totally knowledgeable of whom he is fronting for or representing.
Barricade Books, a company in existence for over 5 decades, was forced
into bankruptcy as a result of the libel judgment obtained by Wynn. Booksellers
throughout the nation received letters threatening lawsuits if they continued
selling the book, and all deliveries from the warehouse inventory of Running
Scared were stopped.
Then a surprising development occurred. A bankruptcy judge in New York
ruled that in order to pay escalating debts, Barricade Books could resume
The book that was effectively "Banned in Boston," began to reappear
on the shelves. However, a promotional media tour that was previously scheduled
for its author was canceled without explanation.
Smith told me that he was about to board a flight to New York to appear
on the Geraldo Rivera Show when he received word that the interview was
suddenly canceled. He surmised that someone in the Wynn organization may
have effectuated the cancellation.
In January, 2002, the Nevada Supreme Court overturned Wynn's $3.3 million
judgment. The Supreme Court found that Judge Loehrer erred with the jury
instruction that they could find Barricade showed malice if "the
publisher entertained doubt as to the veracity" of the Scotland
The Nevada Supreme Court said "serious doubt" is the standard
that should have been applied in the malice instruction. The omission of
the adjective "serious," the justices said, "effectively reduced
the standard of proof required to establish malice."
Now, Stuart who is bankrupt, must find the resources to pay for a new
trial. Also, John Smith has been removed as a litigant in the upcoming
retrial, but Wynn has indicated that he wishes to rename him as a defendant.
"He told me that he will someday own my little
cabin on Mt. Charleston. He is in my kitchen," Smith, a fourth generation
Nevadan, told me before the first trial when he was still on the defendant's
In 1994, I received a call from an investigator with the New Jersey
Division of Gaming Enforcement who inquired if I had a copy of the Scotland
Yard Report. I replied I did. He asked one other question. Did it have
a New Jersey Gaming Control Board time stamp on its cover sheet? I told
him it did not. He abruptly ended the call.
Smith and I assumed that this call indicated that the original report
in the New Jersey Gaming Control Board file was probably copied and sent
to us with the time stamp whited out.
The call also confirmed the existence of such a document -- a document
Wynn's attorney said was a fabrication and should not be entered into evidence.
Regarding the objectivity of Judge Loehrer, I
first became concerned during the 1998 trial when she allowed Wynn's
character witnesses, Nevada Governor
Bob Miller and Las Vegas Mayor
Jan Jones, to testify at their convenience. Judge Loehrer's reason
for suddenly interrupting
Smith's testimony in midstream was that Jones had suspended her vacation
to testify and needed to make a flight. Jones did not disclose on the witness
stand that she was then a large stockholder in Wynn's business.
Smith later told me he regretted complying with the judge's uncommon
request to step down from the witness stand while midstream in his testimony
to provide a courtesy to Jones.
In 1997, while serving her second term as mayor of Las Vegas, Jones
secretly became a stockholder in Mirage and Circus Circus resorts. Acting
as our mayor, she traveled to Detroit to promote the companies
she invested in -- specifically their desire to build casinos in the Motor
City. While there, she again did not disclose her financial involvement
in two of the three casinos bidding for licenses. One year later, Jones
ran for Governor of Nevada, but her recent actions outside our state were
exposed and she lost by a landslide.
Today, Jan Jones is happily employed promoting Indian casinos in California
for Harrah's. And, the last I heard, Judge Loehrer's
husband is still happily employed by Wynn. Doing what? I don't know.
As far as I'm concerned, after experiencing a small degree of his wrath,
I can only imagine what would have happened to me if I had been the one
to author the unflattering biography of Mr. Wynn?
In direct contrast to Wynn, Donald Trump during a recent television
interview was asked how he handles stress? He responded, "I tell myself,
'Don't worry about it!'"
With all his high profile personal and financial trials and tribulations,
Trump's philosophy and sense of humor have obviously kept him happy and
healthy. Unlike Wynn, Mr. Trump has avoided litigating himself into a frenzy
over trivial matters. He just doesn't seem to worry about it very much.
On February 4, 2004, Trump was granted an unlimited Nevada
Gaming license even though his casino plans have yet to be disclosed.
Now, it will be more than interesting to watch the two casino moguls
face off in the Nevada desert since the affable Mr. Trump was also the
target of a vicious Wynn lawsuit, and may be seeking revenge.
I can't wait to see who will be left standing when the dust settles.
But even in a Nevada dust storm, a man such as Donald Trump compared to
a Steve Wynn, is a breath of fresh air.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com