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Winner Takes All: Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman, and the Race to Own Las Vegas Hardcover – March 4, 2008

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Former Wall Street Journal reporter Binkley offers this story of the trio of tycoons who took over Las Vegas and transformed it from a crushed-velvet world with a libidinous frontier air into a place where, increasingly and sometimes surprisingly, entertainment and good taste go hand in hand. Binkley provides an inside look at deal-maker Kerkorian, casino visionary Wynn and professor-turned-mogul Loveman and their lavishly competitive lives: their exclusive and aggressive tennis games, the one-way conveyor belt created to transport customers away from a competing casino, the battle to build the biggest and the best. The author shares intriguing details about these power players—Wynn has a secret entrance, behind some fake books on a shelf, to a sprawling closet—and is also adept at portraying a seedier Vegas, where aged Mafia barons dined on the osso buco at Piero's Italian restaurant, their canes hanging from their chairs. Sometimes her chronology gets a little murky. Still, Binkley offers plenty of nuggets mined from her years on the beat, producing a full, flashy tale of powerful men and their pride, vanity, envy, greed—and all the other cardinal no-nos that earned Vegas the name Sin City. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"As exhilarating as a high-stakes game of craps." ---Kirkus --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; First Edition edition (March 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140130236X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401302368
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #547,839 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Paige Turner on March 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Fascinating and well-researched book on three of the biggest names in the Las Vegas casino business. The author picks up the Vegas story in the mid-90s, and gives a play-by-play on the MGM buyout of Mirage Resorts. This book is a must-read for anyone interested in details about how the deals took place and how the casinos were built. Nice breezy writing style. My only two small complaints are the author incessantly brings up cosmetic surgery that some of the people got, which I think only needs to be mentioned once. And I think she doesn't give Wynn enough credit for building the Mirage, she glosses over that fact as if it was incidental when it was a seminal event in Vegas history. Great coverage of three men: Wynn, Loveman, and Kerkorian. The elephant in the room is almost no detail on Adelson (Chairman of Las Vegas Sands). If she had included the same level of detail on him, this would be a nearly perfect book on the business of Las Vegas. Fantastic read nonetheless, I admire her level of research. Highly recommended.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Dave Schwartz VINE VOICE on March 21, 2008
Format: Hardcover
In Winner Takes All, Binkley examines a few of the major players in the Strip consolidation sweepstakes. She parlays her access (she's the former lead Vegas reporter for the Wall Street Journal) into a truly insightful book. Unless you've spent the past few years sitting in the executive offices of MGM Mirage, Wynn, and Harrah's, you'll definitely learn something from reading this. Binkley does a solid job of pulling back the curtain on the motivations and rivalries that unite and divide the movers and shakers on the Strip.

Binkley goes beyond petty corporate politics, though, and discusses the underlying business strategies that differentiate Wynn, Kerkorian (and his executives), and Loveman. Wynn believes in luxury above all; Kerkorian thinks that size matters (he's opened the world's biggest casino hotel three times) and is a consummate deal-maker' and Loveman brings scientific management to the wild west of the casino floor. If you are an aspiring entrepreneur, you might learn a few lessons from each of these three approaches. If you're just a person who likes to come to Vegas, you'll get an insider's peek into some of your favorite resorts.

As a historian, I've got to grouse at a few historical inaccuracies. Suffice it to say that Binkley is an outstanding source for the material that she personally reported on, but might have relied on lesser sources for some of the background.

Although (or maybe because) the book is about Las Vegas, 1999-2007, it is dominated by Steve Wynn. Even when he's not there, he's there, haunting the thoughts of the author and the principals. In simple terms, MGM Grand, Inc. wants to be like Wynn, so the company buys Mirage Resorts.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Andy Orrock VINE VOICE on August 8, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Wall Street Journal reporter Christina Binkley was that paper's lead reporter in Las Vegas for 10 years. In "Winner Takes All" she pulls together that experience - both the knowledge and her contacts - and delivers a compelling, enthralling narrative of Vegas' transformation over that period.

The book's sub-title says "Steve Wynn, Kirk Kerkorian, Gary Loveman and the Race to Own Las Vegas." Binkley posits that a series of mega-deals have apportioned Vegas into three controlling companies: MGM Mirage (headed by Kirkorian); Wynn (Steve Wynn's eponymous new post-Mirage venture); and Harrah's (helmed by ex-Harvard prof Loveman). Binkley appears to have had little access to Kerkorian, (no one does, but read Bill Vlasic's classic Taken for a Ride: How Daimler-Benz Drove Off With Chrysler for a better peek at him) but ample access to his lieutenants. She obviously had developed a cordial relationship with Loveman. What stands out is her relationship with Wynn and wife Elaine. It's extensive, to say the least. She's clearly enchanted with the guy.

In fact, that relationship leads me to my major problem with the book - it simply lacks credibility to leave Sheldon Adelson - Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sand Corporation (Venetian, Sands Convention Center, Palazzo) - out of the story. He, as much as anyone, set the pace for Vegas during Binkley's years of coverage. And, he made the leap to Macao ahead of any of his Vegas peers. It's blatantly obvious from the text that Ms. Binkley has a history with Adelson.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Tennis Bum on May 24, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Christina Binkley's Winner Takes All book starts her tale of Vegas about ten years ago with the city transcending its role as the place for gamblers to become a travel destination for the world. It's understandable to start there. Binkley started reporting on Vegas for the Wall Street Journal, and a rush of consolidation begins.

For the knowledgeable Vegas fan, it is disorienting. Telling the story of the Rio as being the place identified with gourmet food and wine overlooks that Jean-Louise Palladin (Napa restaurant) and the Rio's expensive wine cellar were part of the Masquerade Village expansion. The Rio did not drop onto the desert in 1997 with Jean-Louis holding bottles of Chateau Petrus. The book talks about Harrah's as not having a decent property in Vegas into the 1990's, only the old Holiday Casino, but Harrah's renamed and renovated the Holiday casino about a decade before the start of the book. Anything and everything that happens before 1997 is treated as a single cotemporaneous event.

It seems to me this book is a good description of four recent events:
The loss of the Mirage properties by Steve Wynn (the most compelling and best covered story of the four)
The acquisition of Mirage and Mandalay Bay by MGM
Harrah's growth based on analytics and the acquisition of Caesars
The building of Wynn (the casino)

Things I like:
Being a former writer for the Wall Street Journal, the business aspects should be well covered, and they are. Beyond the three featured corporate players, the book also features many other chief officers of the Mirage, MGM, Harrahs and other corporations. There is also a good account of the transformation of Harrah's using customer based competing analytics.
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