Downtown Grand’s CEO Jim Simms Is Shown the Door

Word is the CEO of the struggling Downtown Grand, Jim Simms, has been given his walking

Simms’ abrupt, apparently involuntary, departure is the latest twist in the Downtown Grand

Downtown Grand was formerly the Lady Luck and is owned by the CIM Group. Lady Luck was
purchased in 2007 for $100 million, and the company invested another $100 million in a
major renovation. Downtown Grand opened in 2013.

Downtown Grand Las Vegas

Lady Luck originally opened in 1964, the same year Nelson Mandela was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa. No connection.

Simms replaced the resort’s previous CEO, Seth Schorr, who is currently the chairman of
Fifth Street Gaming. Fifth Street Gaming operates Downtown Grand and other gambling
establishments in Las Vegas.

Downtown Grand had high hopes for Jim Simms, but he encountered many of the same
challenges his predecessor faced, including not being able to capitalize on the foot
traffic on Fremont Street Experience (where this blog is employed, by the way).

Downtown Grand’s recent efforts to draw gamblers have been baffling, to say the least. The
casino, for example, removed its table games from the main casino floor, relocating them
into a former high limit room. The tables returned to the main floor a couple of weeks
after the move, but feel incidental to the casino rather than an integral part of it.

Downtown Grand casino chip

We kid because we love.

Downtown Grand made a token effort to draw Canadian travelers late last year, presumably
because Jim Simms is a native Canadian. It appears that initiative wasn’t as successful as

Perhaps Downtown Grand’s most baffling marketing effort to-date has been an attempt to
appeal to video gamers. The hotel has played host to an eSports team, and has expressed
that it wants “to be known as a company that embraces the eSports community.”

Despite the shuffling of its executives and curious marketing strategies, Downtown Grand
remains an appealing resort, especially if you include the fact two strong neighboring
restaurants are in the Fifth Street Gaming family, Pizza Rock and Triple George Grill.

Pizza Rock

Free casino consultation: Find out what people love about Pizza Rock’s meatballs and make your casino that.

We suspect Downtown Grand will put a nice face on the departure of Jim Simms, but Las
Vegas casino CEOs rarely get traded when they’re knocking it out of the park. Yes, we used
a sports metaphor. After 1,000 blog posts, there are very few unused metaphors left.

Update (2/3/16): As promised, Downtown Grand says Simms is leaving because “he completed his one-year plan ahead of schedule.” Which may just be the best line in the history of ever. Read more, including this gem: Downtown Grand is prepared for another strong year of “elevating the casual sophisticated resort experience in downtown Las Vegas.”

The vast majority of casino fans, including this Las Vegas blog, continue to root for the
success of Downtown Grand and hold out hope bold, wiser choices can turn the resort
around. Downtown Grand’s ownership is no doubt running out of patience. Again.

We predicted Downtown Grand will be sold in 2016, even though the asking price is a tad (translation: wildly) on the optimistic side at the moment.

Las Vegas is full of surprises, however, and Downtown Grand may still have a card or two up its sleeve. Yeah, we’re much more comfortable with gambling metaphors.

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  • Wally Marshall

    When the announcement was made for his hire, i was the first to say he would not last long as he had zero like experience, never worked in vegas, etc. Lets see who the next pick will be, i doubt it will be any better than the last. In my opinion, this whole project has been so poorly managed that it amazes me it is still open, or better yet, it amazes me that the money behind the project continues to fund the shortfalls. They must have super deep pockets and lots of faith in Schorr

    • Steven Brown

      CIM doesn’t even list the Downtown Grand as being one of their investments (They list Turnberry Towers over on Paradise across the street from SLS as their only Vegas investment.).

      • Oof, not sure what that means. They should be proud of this resort, though! It’s worthy of being proud.

    • Agreed on all counts. I’m starting to think the problem is they keep doing the same thing thinking the results will be different.

      • Rebecca Kennedy

        Ok Dr. Phil! Lol!

  • Bill B

    It’s sad that a good casino hotel cannot seem to hire the right team.
    When they first opened, the slots & VP were so tight as to be virtually unplayable. BJ was not as good as the nearest competitor.
    Then most of the eating places closed, which made the few patrons there were, eat & play elsewhere.
    Finally last year, they appeared to be getting back on track, although the hidden gaming tables was a mysterious move.
    The place was spotless, drinks service was good, slots were on par with the other DT places, it did seem to be improving BUT until the walk from FSE is made a lot more appealing, all the restaurants are reopened, the noise from H&H bar is somehow tackled & I don’t mean with ear plugs, a CEO with a success record in Vegas casinos & a general recognition that repeatedly attempting to appeal to the high rollers from the Strip is a wasted strategy… the constant changing of CEOs sadly will continue.

  • Troy Swezey

    Maybe Jeff Beacher should put in a bid since he surely will not get Playboy Mansion. Just a thought.

    • Even deeply discounted, this is a really expensive investment. Good idea, though.

  • Steven Brown

    This is a case in which CIM needs to show Fifth Street the door, as these guys have had over two years in which to prove themselves capable of running the property (Downtown Grand was a huge leap from the smaller casino/hotels they have run previously [Including the Gold Spike.].). Even the folks that run the Plaza for Tamares could likely do a better job, and those folks turned part of the casino space at Las Vegas Club into a cheap souvenir shop……

    The property has a lot of potential, but little is being done to attract people over there. I’ve been going down to Triple George for a number of years, and they as well as Hogs & Heifers have had little trouble attracting patrons during the time in which the former Lady Luck really made that area look gloomy.

    • Can’t disagree with those thoughts. If a traditional casino vet can’t help, they may need to try something dramatic. I am surprised CIM has continued to throw money at this effort.

  • Politishite

    This place should get rid of all machines and any table games that involve playing the house. They then should put in skill based games where people can play others for money… think poker, billiards, backgammon, chess and even skill based computer games.

    Throw out the typical casino model and become a place for skill based gaming for money. Players can wager on games and even the audience can wager on them playing.

    The Grand DM me if you need help. I got this.

    • That may just be the direction they go in, as they are clearly working the videogame crowd, and are working with a company to bring in interactive games.

  • Royal Flusher

    I hope they showed him a nice modern colonial door with nickel plated brass hardware. It will be hard to believe anything they say now about where this property is going, other than announcing its sale. Quite a shame, really.

    • Every major change in leadership is a chance to turn things around, and somebody might figure out how to do it. I think a lot of us think we know the magic formula, but who knows?

  • Mike L

    It will be very interesting to see what happens here. Considering Derek Stevens just paid $40M for a property ON Fremont Street (Las Vegas Club), I think they would be lucky to even recoup the initial $100M they paid for the property. Most likely CIM will take a $100-200M hit when all is said and done, depending on when they want to stop the bleeding. I would also bet that their room occupancy will drop dramatically this year (and probably dropped the last couple of months last year), since they seem to have really tightened the comps. Hopefully they can get a new owner/operator soon to actually turn the place around.

  • JeffinOKC

    Saddest experience of our recent trip to Las Vegas was walking through Sunday evening. Wife was hoping to get another simple T-shirt that she had bought there on our last trip. Gift shop space is now storage for chairs and “stuff”. No gift or essentials shop. Several areas stripped down to built in fixtures or dormant.
    I think it was built for a market that didn’t exist: Youthful, upscale downtown. The positive, IMO, is that it is fundamentally a well laid out and rebuilt property. For the person that buys it right, invests in joining Fremont Street Experience, and creates a magnet along the walkway from Fremont using dancing girls and rainbow elephants, it could become Grand!

  • Bouldersteve

    One of the mistakes they made when opening this property was not having a parking lot. Without it you can forget the local market. The FSE draws many people but they need a reason to walk a block away to visit the Grand..sadly there is not one

  • Wolfdog

    Last November, I walked in for the first time, about 2pm. I was the only person there.
    Not good.

    • Yep, that’s the fundamental challenge. People will walk over if they have a reason to.

  • nervys_neely

    I was there in November for the big “Canadian” promotion which really wasn’t much of a promotion. You want to attract Canadians? Offer us an exchange at or near par with the US dollar, and I will bring sacks of cash with me down south and probably spend more at your casino.

    I stayed at the DT Grand in November and I think I echo a lot of what others have said. Make it worth the walk from Fremont and you will have a winner. I found the walk to be a bit much, along with the parking. Schlepping your suitcases down long hallways, down an escalator, through the casino, across a street, into a parking lot, is a bit much.

    I also found the ladies working the cage to be a bit on the standoffish side. I go to Vegas for the service, not to be treated like crap.