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LAS VEGAS-Wynn Resorts Ltd. on Tuesday reported a sharp decline in its Las Vegas operations in the fourth quarter, attributing it primarily to the decline in casino revenue as well as weaker performance from the hotel, food and beverage, retail and entertainment segments. The company now has two adjacent resorts in Las Vegas, Wynn and Encore, though the latter was open for only the final nine days of the quarter.

Net casino revenues for Wynn’s Las Vegas properties in the fourth quarter were $90.7 million, down 43.3% from $160 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Gross non-casino revenues for the quarter were $171.9 million, a 16.9% decline from the fourth quarter of 2007. Adjusted Las Vegas property EBITDA in the final three months of 2008 was $32.6 million, a 66.5% decline from $97.3 million in the same 2007 period.

The company attributed the performance to a “dramatic decline” in business between Thanksgiving and Christmas compared to 2007 and its lowest “hold” percentage (15.3%) for table games since it opened Wynn Las Vegas in April 2005. The hold is the percentage of money bet by gamblers that is retained by the house. In the final three months of 2007 Wynn’s hold percentage in Las Vegas was 23.5%.

Hotel revenues were down 14% to $60.5 million during the quarter from $70.3 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Occupancy was 79.7%, down from 94.3% in the fourth quarter of 2007, generating revenue per available room of $224, down 20.3% from the fourth quarter of 2007.

Food and beverage revenues decreased 11.6% to $69.6 million in the quarter, compared to $78.8 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Retail revenues were $18.4 million in the quarter, down 31% compared to $26.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2007. Entertainment revenues were approximately $12.1 million, down 32% compared to $17.8 in the fourth quarter of 2007.

Steve Wynn, who ordered staff to make sure its resorts were full for the opening of Encore in mid-December regardless of price because he didn’t want an “unanimated” opening, says the company is now once again hunting for guests with a rifle rather than a shotgun.

“Occupancy in and of itself is not the answer,” Steve Wynn told analysts Tuesday afternoon. “We need people in our beds that can afford our restaurants and various other amenities. We may do better with 88% occupancy than 93% depending on the quality of the quest. Unless our guests visit our showrooms and restaurants and higher-limit tables our model doesn’t work as well.”

Companywide, Wynn Resorts said it lost 159.6-million ($1.49 per share) in the final three months of 2008. In the same year-earlier period the company recorded a profit of $65.5 million ($0.57 per share). Excluding one-time items, including a $98.8 million tax expense, Wynn Resorts earned $0.13 a share in the quarter, well below analysts’ average estimate of approximately $0.41 cents.

Wynn reported its earnings after the close of markets. Company shares rose 11% to close at $25.80 on Nasdaq on Tuesday but were down sharply in after-hours trading. The company’s share price is off more than 80% since August.

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