Seth Schorr arrived in Las Vegas 30 years ago at the age of 6, and he’s been involved in the casino business ever since. His family even lived in Downtown’s Golden Nugget for 14 months after moving from New York (his father is a longtime executive with Wynn Resorts). After a varied early career in local gaming, some time in Macau and a stint on Wall Street, Schorr partnered with Jeffrey Fine to create Fifth Street Gaming, which is currently at work creating and managing its flagship property, the Downtown Grand. Set to open in fall 2013 at the former site of the Lady Luck, flanked by the Mob Museum and the future home of Zappos, the new casino-resort will likely be the next big step in Downtown’s resurgence. The Fifth Street CEO sounds excited to be involved, and to be “back home” in Downtown Las Vegas.
Do you think it was inevitable that you would end up working in casinos? I guess it would be fair to say it was a foregone conclusion. I did experiment outside of gaming a little, in financial services on Wall Street. But I was 12 when I had my first casino job. It’s in my blood.
One of your earlier Vegas gigs was managing Steve Wynn’s art collection. What was that like? After Mr. Wynn sold Mirage Resorts and bought the Desert Inn, before it turned into Wynn and Encore, he took his personal art collection and converted part of the lobby into a beautiful gallery and gift shop. It was my job to manage that operation and create tours for school kids and everything else. The best part of that experience was that he was so involved with it, it was so important to him, and I got a lot of face time. We created audio tours, so I got to research and write those and sit with him and record them and just talk about these priceless paintings for days.
I’m not sure people know how much stuff your company is working on Downtown. We moved our corporate headquarters Downtown after Jeffrey [Fine] acquired the Ice House on Main Street. Our whole organization is focused on Downtown. In addition to the Downtown Grand, we operate Triple George [Grill] and Mob Bar and are developing the Downtown 3rd brand, which will include a major retail component around the Mob Museum that will open in 2014. And we get to collaborate with all the other operators Downtown.
Why change to Downtown Grand when Lady Luck is such an iconic Vegas name? That’s a great question. It wasn’t an easy decision. At the end of the day, it was important that the community, both Las Vegas and our tourists, realize this is a new hotel, not just new carpet and wallpaper. We demo’d every wall. We only kept the steel and concrete from the Lady Luck. This is not a renovation. We respect the past and think it has a very important place in Downtown Las Vegas, but we also want to focus on the future, and creating a new name helps us take advantage of all this exciting new energy.
How would you characterize your company’s relationship with Zappos and the Downtown Project? A great collaboration, absolutely. We’ve already done lots of events with Zappos, and some of the restaurants coming to Downtown 3rd and Downtown Grand are almost specifically designed for them. They are creating a Zappos card program with Zappos bucks, and we’ll be accepting that and encouraging their employees to spend time with us.
There are a few casino renovation projects in development now, but really nothing new coming soon anywhere in Las Vegas. Does that put extra pressure on you to make Downtown Grand a success? It’s exciting that we’re going to be the only new casino-hotel to open in Las Vegas in 2013. We’ll take the attention. It’s important to get the word out there, and I don’t think people will be disappointed. It’s unique. It’s not for everybody, and you can’t design any resort to be for everyone. But I don’t think anyone will walk into Downtown Grand and say, “I’ve seen this before,” or think it’s a version of some other Strip property. It will be unique to Downtown, authentic and interesting.