This Powerful Billionaire Said Something Obscene About Poor People

April 8th 2016

Lucy Tiven

It's no secret that Las Vegas is a place of great excess, but one casino owner just made a particularly tone-deaf remark about class—or, as he put it, "poor people." On Wednesday, Steve Wynn, a billionaire casino tycoon and founder of Wynn Resorts, told investors, “Rich people only like being around rich people. Nobody likes being around poor people, especially poor people,” CNBC reported.

Wynn was addressing plans to lure consumers by cultivating an air of opulence similar to that of luxury fashion brands.

“This company caters to the top end of the gaming world. We’re sort of Chanel or Louis Vuitton, to use the comparison, the metaphor of the retail business," Wynn said. "But unlike Chanel and Louis Vuitton, we are able in our business to cater to all of the market. By making our standards so high … that everybody wants to be in the building."

Since the 2008 recession, spending on gambling in Las Vegas has declined, according to a January CNN Money report. In 2015, Nevada's casino industry lost $662 million.

Wynn expanded on his brand strategy. “[W]e try and make the place feel upscale for everyone," he said. "That is to say we cater to people who have discretion and judgment and we give them a choice and we are consistent in that.”

These remarks prove especially troubling amidst the national conversation on income inequality that is particularly poignant in Las Vegas. The poverty rate in the southern Nevada suburbs has spiked as much as 123 percent between 2000 and 2014, according to an NPR report.