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

4.2 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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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.

Review

"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 (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,221,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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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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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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Format: Paperback
I picked this book up very cheaply at a neighborhood Dollar Store in town. I bought this book hoping to find out what Las Vegas was like post mob rule of the city. How did the mega casinos get built? Was the Mirage a massive success right out of the gate or did it have any major problems during opening? Did the casinos fight with each other to get the biggest events at their venues boxing matches, music artists, entertainers etc? This book just kind of scratches the surface but does not really go in depth on the business dealings that went through to raise the casinos that now dot the strip. It does not really tell you what it takes to operate these massive hotels or which ones are the most successful and why. I was hoping this novel would shed some light on what happened to Las Vegas after the "Casino" movie ended filling up that time period.

I had heard of Steve Wynn and knew he was one of the guys responsible for building the mega casino's Las Vegas and the book makes him sound cocky and arrogant. The author made it sound like Steve just went way overboard buying art for the Bellagio Casino at any price and that is what caused him to lose it. I am sure there was a lot more going on that caused him to fall from grace. But you could also see the genius when he lost his casinos and how he rebuilt his empire in Asian casinos. I had no idea the Asian countries were so crazy about gambling. Steve Wynn took advantage of that underserved source of wealth and built Casinos in Singapore near the Philippians then came back to Vegas to conquer lost territory. I found that the most interesting part of the book.

Towards the middle of the story I was not sure what the author was really trying to go with her story.
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