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Feeling Lucky: Ex-Wynn worker aims to remake Speedway Casino

Seth Schorr grew up in the most exclusive residences in Clark County as the only neighbor to Steve Wynn on Shadow Creek Golf Course.

He cut his casino teeth at Wynn’s properties, some of the most luxurious resorts ever developed along the Strip.

Now his new office, a converted hotel room at the Lucky Club Casino and Hotel, formerly known as the Speedway Casino, faces a high-crime section in North Las Vegas. But Schorr wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s a change, but I don’t have the type of ego where I need to walk through a nice place to make me feel better about myself,” said Schorr, son of Wynn’s longtime right-hand man Marc Schorr. “I got to walk into a tired dump and turn it into something, and that makes me proud. Even walking through the facility as it exists today, even though the transition isn’t quite there, I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished as a team.

Schorr is the hands-on man transforming the “tired dump” into the renamed Lucky Club for Ganaste Gaming, a group of investors including Schorr, executives at Wynn Las Vegas, American Nevada Co. and Collier’s International. The hotel-casino adopted its new name in June when Ganaste acquired the property from MTR Gaming Group of Chester, W.Va. The marquee will change next month, announcing the name to the world.

Schorr started in casinos at age 7, as child-marketing director at the Golden Nugget. After stints at other Wynn properties — serving as bellman, desk attendant, casino host — Schorr moved into the early development of online gaming. He oversaw Wynn’s art collection at the Desert Inn and finished as marketing director at Wynn Macau.

Now he’s on his own.

Question: As the son of Marc Schorr (chief operating officer of Wynn Resorts Ltd.), was it a natural fit you would be in the gaming industry?

Answer: It was a business I was always fascinated in, particularly, creating an experience for people.

Steve Wynn just retold this story at my wedding. When I was 7 and I moved to Las Vegas with my family, we lived at the Golden Nugget for a year or so. I had business cards made that I was the director of children’s marketing. I told my dad that instead of just putting the chocolate on the pillow for the adults, you should put a teddy bear because that will make the kids happy. And if the kids are happy the parents will be happy and they’ll come to Las Vegas more often. That was about 10 years before we went down the whole Treasure Island family thing. They took a good idea and went too far with it.

Question: What was your first job in the gaming industry?

Answer: When I was 12, at the Golden Nugget Laughlin, I worked in engineering painting a garage in 120-degree heat. When I was 13, my dad put me in human resources so I’d learn the nuances of all the different positions. Then every summer until I was 21 and out of school, I’d come home and work for three or four months. At Treasure Island, I was a bellman and wore the goofy pirate uniform.

Question: How has the economy affected your decisions as the Lucky Club’s new owners and operators?

Answer: It has forced us to be meaner and leaner. I believe we haven’t cut anything yet that’s affected customer service. Going through this means that when the economy recovers, and it will recover, we can stay mean and lean and make more money that we would have before the crisis. Let’s be realistic. Even if the economy hadn’t gone in this (downward) direction, I knew it would take a couple of years to get this place to the level of cash flow I’d want it to be at.

Question: What is your long-time plan for Ganaste Gaming as a casino owner and operator?

Answer: The Speedway is a launching point for additional properties. It is not something we want to turn around and flip. We hope it is one of many. The way I’ve been growing this operation as I hire people, they might in some cases be overqualified for just running this property because I’m trying to build a corporate operation, a corporate identity that can take on other properties. As other properties come on the market, we’ll have a team of people who can look at them. I have aspirations that one day, who knows, the sky’s the limit. But I’m also the type of person that today, this is my responsibility. My head’s not in the clouds trying to get to the next opportunity.

Question: Ganaste entered a contract to buy the Speedway in early 2007. Did you feel fortunate to find a nonrestricted gaming property at a friendly price ($18.2 million)?

Answer: We feel extremely grateful that we found something where the asking price was reasonable. Now we have skin in the game.

Question: Are you operating at a loss right now trying to get the new vision of the Lucky Club off the ground?

Answer: No question about it, but it is something we can do for a while. It’s tough because anybody can lay off 10 percent of his work force. We’ve been fortunate that we haven’t had to take that approach, yet. Today, our employees have been cutting back hours, giving more days off. Even though it hurts them, they are being more flexible because they realize at least they have a job. By working fewer hours a week, someone’s associate has a job. At this point we’ve been able to keep everybody.

Question: Why did you go out on your own and not stay with the Wynn organization?

Answer: Having someone like my dad open doors for me, and more importantly, give me opportunities at a young age other people didn’t have, makes me feel really lucky. However, the level of expectation is different when it comes to my dad and Steve Wynn and where nepotism is concerned; they will treat you a thousand times harder than they would someone off the street. I could handle that, I didn’t mind working harder than anybody else. But I get a satisfaction of creating something on my own that was different than being a part of my father’s team.

Question: Is there a drive to accomplish something away from your father and Wynn?

Answer: Maybe subconsciously that has something to do with it. I love working with my dad. He’s my greatest resource. He’s my greatest supporter emotionally. But, today, with everything I do, I run it by him. It’s different than if I was working for him. It makes us more friends.

This little place is my own. Every little decision from that vinyl wallpaper to the concrete floor to the menu to why we do a certain percentage discount all comes through me. If you’re working for an organization the size of Wynn’s, you can’t do that. It’s not possible.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at aknightly@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893.

 

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