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TheStreet Open House

Casino Owner's $2 Million Gift Surprises Las Vegas

But to the families who received the $500 gift cards, this was anything but the norm. One woman collapsed to the ground upon receiving her gift card. Without it, she wouldn't have been able to make her rent. Children jumped up and down, certain the funds meant they would receive long delayed Christmas gifts. Some were advised to use the money toward a bus pass, so they could start their job hunts.

Two days after she received the gift card, Shinoa Owens had already spent most of it on car insurance and a cellphone bill. Owens, 21, lives with her 2-year-old daughter. She works about 28 hours a week at two separate retail jobs and aspires to work in an office as an assistant or secretary.

"That was really nice of him," Owens said of Wynn. "I don't care how much he spent elsewhere. I am glad he shared some of it with me. Even if it was just $25. I am not a greedy grubber."

Streets lined with foreclosed homes, an obliterated construction industry and massive unemployment are just some of the problems Nevada faces. Once the fastest growing state in the nation, Nevada was wounded when the economy collapsed and sent thousands to the unemployment lines. Las Vegas' unemployment rate was 11.6 in April, and one in every 285 homes is in foreclosure.

"You go for interviews and they just never call you back," said Judy Hirsch, 58, of Las Vegas, who became unemployed for the first time in October, when she lost her job as an administrative assistant. A $500 donation would help pay the bills, she said.

With Nevada's decline, casino kings have helped Las Vegas limp forward. They stroke checks at charity balls and give unknown sums in private.

"It's very common," said Jan Jones, a former Las Vegas mayor and a spokeswoman for Caesars Entertainment Corp. "They are prolific givers."

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