Meeting Scott Schettler: My Stardust Adventure

There’s nothing quite like a first impression: when former casino executive and regulator Richard Schuetz first met Scott Schettler at the Stardust (l.), things didn’t get off to the best start. However, decades later, Schuetz will now present Schettler as an inductee to the Sports Gaming Hall of Fame—funny how things work out.

Meeting Scott Schettler: My Stardust Adventure

“You talkin’ to me?”
– Robert De Niro, as Travis Bickel in Taxi Driver

Once upon a time I was the executive vice president of casino operations for the Frontier Hotel & Casino, which was then under the control of the Summa Corporation. The property was the last of the properties assembled by the late Howard Hughes to be sold. Therefore, I needed something to do.

The president of the Frontier had been John Miner. We had gone to the Frontier together from the Golden Nugget, then chaired by Mr. Wynn, and it looked as if we were headed to our next destination together, the Stardust Hotel & Casino.

The Stardust had a legendary name in Las Vegas and, for many years, had guaranteed high levels of employment for many agents from the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB). While the ownership prior to the Boyd Group seemed very good at running a casino, it lacked accounting skills and never seemed to get the revenue numbers right. So that group was asked to leave by the NGCB to be replaced by a pair of dudes who also struggled to get the count right. Once again, the NGCB asked them to leave. Enter Bill Boyd, who had a team that could certainly get the count right but that was somewhat out of its league operating on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Boyd folks had written the book on how to run a local’s joint. Low price points, low table limits, friendly service and good value everywhere. But then, the Stardust was on the Strip, not Boulder Highway.

The culture and business practices of the Las Vegas Strip were a bridge too far for the Boyd Group at that time, and the financial performance was reflecting that reality, so when John and I became available with the sale of the Frontier, we were asked to bring our Las Vegas Strip experience up the street to the ‘Dust.

Walking into Stardust for the first time as an executive was something of a hoot. There was a great deal of history there, and much of it was very colorful. For the truly uninitiated, the Stardust was the model for the movie Casino.

While at the Frontier, we had installed a race and sportsbook in the facility, so I had a basic education of what that was about. Our keno manager, Lenny Del Genio, had convinced me he could run a book, and we had enlisted Roxy Roxborough, who had many more betting IQ points than any of us, to help us from screwing things up too much. Bob Gregorka was also involved in managing the effort, and I later hired Sonny Reizner from the Hole-in-the-Wall at the Castaways as a host, for I thought we needed some older bones in the joint to keep an eye on things. All in all, it was something of a circus, and most of us were faking it until we could make it. I did impose some fairly strict limits on the risk we were willing to accept.

When I started with the Stardust, the Boyd corporate folks officed in the facility. Moreover, some of them had been promoted to corporate roles once it was discovered they had no aptitude for running a Las Vegas Strip property. It was a bit awkward, to say the least. Moreover, it was immediately brought to my attention that the race & sportsbook director had an attitude problem with accepting authority, and it was my read that one of my jobs was to get rid of him.

After all of the discussions and insights, most of which I did not want, I then began my job. I was never a big fan of listening to the people who got the ship on the rocks explain how best to get it off the rocks.

I was responsible for the casino, and the main way I ran a casino was actually being on the casino floor. I was not one to sequester myself in an office. I then thought I would walk down to the book and meet its leader, Scott Schettler.

The race & sportsbook at the Stardust was legendary. It was very large and impressive. It had 11 payphones on the exterior of the building by the race and sportsbook entrance, and they were the highest revenue-producing payphones in the United States. The book had high limits and set the line for U.S. sporting events. It was also packed.

As I arrived at the counter, I introduced myself to the staff and asked if Scott was in the book. They said he was. They showed me back to where he hung out. I entered his loosely defined office, and he was sitting at his desk, working on some papers. I waited a moment, and he finally looked up. I introduced myself and explained that we would be working together. He demonstrated absolutely zero interest in this conversation. He then said (and this related to my time at the Frontier): “We don’t give out hats and t-shirts here.” I thanked him for the information, and he went back to working on his papers. I left.

The next day, I again went on my trek down to the book. The staff recognized me and allowed me behind the counter. I walked back to Scott’s office, and he was visiting with one of his supervisors. I waited until the conversation ended and the supervisor left. Scott then looked at me and said I was the first guy in a suit who ever came back a second day.

I told Scott to get used to it.

Well, I came back a great many days after that. I did make a few internal and external adjustments. I cut a deal with the Boyd Group folks that if anyone had an issue with Scott, they needed to bring it to me, and I would address it. I also got the head of the NGCB to agree that if the agency’s representatives had any issues with the book or Scott, they would bring it to me, and I would address it. This allowed Scott to do one thing, and it was to run the book, and it remains my position today that there has never been anyone better at that one thing on the planet.

One of the best bits of news I have received of late was that Scott is going to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Sports Gambling Hall of Fame to reside at the Circa Resort and Casino in Las Vegas at a ceremony during Bet Bash—all of this developed through the tireless efforts of Spanky.

I recently received a call from Spanky, who had called Scott and asked him whom he wanted to be presented by at the Hall of Fame celebration, and Spanky said if he needed to think about it, he could get back later. Scott said he did not need to think about it—the person was Richard Schuetz. I was touched when I heard this.

I entered the gaming industry in 1971 and have generally been hanging about it ever since. I can think of no bigger honor than presenting Scott Schettler as an inductee into the Sports Gaming Hall of Fame.

Articles by Author: Richard Schuetz

Richard Schuetz started dealing blackjack for Bill Harrah 47 years ago, and has traveled the world as a casino executive, educator and regulator. He is sincerely appreciative of the help he received from his friends and colleagues throughout the gaming world in developing this article, understanding that any and all errors are his own.