Jim Simms and Seth Schorr are striving to create the casino of the future at the Downtown Grand. By David McKee
“Gamblers wanted” is the new mantra of Fifth Street Gaming’s Downtown Grand casino, in Las Vegas—and no wonder. On a recent midweek night, the casino floor was thinly populated and the high-limit room empty. The lively exception to the prevailing quiet was a crowded craps table. The Downtown Grand has been a victim of geography. Executives will tell you that its biggest handicap is being a block off the Fremont Street Experience, the main artery of downtown Vegas. That one, long block might as well as be a mile as far as foot traffic is concerned.
Not even being next door to the Mob Museum has spared the Downtown Grand from some early struggles. Gone is the short-lived baccarat pit, along with Red Mansion restaurant, Spread Deli, street dice, the Ninth Island shaved-ice bar and the Mob Bar. It was even rumoured that the Grand would be put up for sale.
Yet what was really happening was that Fifth Street was rethinking and reloading, preparing a raft of initiatives that CEO Jim Simms and Chairman of the Board Seth Schorr unveiled on the cusp of Global Gaming Expo. They’re not a quick fix but are definitely a forward-thinking, long-term strategy that indicates that owner CIM Group and Fifth Street are in Downtown to stay.
“We really believe we have something special here,” says Simms. Referring to the casino’s post-industrial look, with exposed brickwork and the old “eye in the sky” catwalks revealed for all to see, he added, “It looks unique and it is not designed to be a run-of-the-mill competitor. We want to be perceived as right up there with Golden Nugget in terms of downtown offerings.” Then, addressing the obvious problem, he said, “Even though we’re just a couple of minutes away from Fremont, if we can get people to come here to see what we have, they’re going to be excited.”