He’s a man with ideas that can
only have an impact on Vegas

Apr 24, 2007 6:28 AM

While you are trying to figure out if anyone can beat Curlin in the Derby, I’ll give you a sure winner, right here in Vegas.

He’s a man, not a horse, and he is a bright new comet in the gaming industry. Bright young people are plentiful in this town, but many are shooting stars, flaming out after shining starts. Others of longer duration can be seen, but are not subjects for columns. Joe Asher, the subject of this one, is here to stay, a 39-year-old supernova who will be seen, and heard from, frequently in the years to come.

He came here from New York as managing director of Cantor Gaming, and was the company’s principal witness before the Nevada Assembly and Senate on Assembly Bill 471 two years ago, the issue of mobile gaming. He also made Cantor’s presentations on mobile gaming to the Nevada Gaming Commission and Gaming Control Board. Cantor executed the first agreement with a casino operator for mobile gaming with the Sands.

Then, in a recent move that stunned all but those who know him well, he left Cantor — his decision, not theirs — and started his own firm.

Joe Asher has big ideas — scores of them — and he plans to put them to use here.

Along the way, in addition to falling in love with Las Vegas, he fell in love with a dark-haired intellectual beauty named Cynthia, a lawyer like Joe, and they married and bought a beautiful home here.

Even all of that does not qualify someone for column coverage.

The reason that Joe Asher’s story does is that he accomplished all this against very formidable odds.

Raised by foster parents, he headed alone into the world at 16 to make something of himself.

Horses fascinated him, and he turned up at Brandywine Raceway in Wilmington, Delaware. Marv Bachrad, Brandywine’s publicity director then, and still one of the best in the business at slot-fueled Dover Downs in Delaware, recognized Asher’s talents immediately. He told Hap Hansen, the track’s president and general manager, that this was a kid who needed help and could help Brandywine.

Hansen said, "Hire him." Quickly impressed with the kid’s determination and work ethic, Hansen became Joe’s mentor.

Joe did everything — announced the races, wrote releases, became assistant racing secretary and then assistant general manager, went to the University of Delaware, won a Harness Tracks of America scholarship, and graduated from Widener Law School magna cum laude.

He clerked for a Delaware Supreme Court justice and was hired by Skadden Arps, one of the nation’s major power law firms.

In 1997 he took a six-month leave of absence and toured Southeast Asia, including Thailand and China. While there, when he realized he was seeing incredibly impressive things that failed to move him, he knew it was time to come home.

One of his major clients at Skadden Arps was Cantor Fitzgerald, and when more than 600 of that company’s employees fell with the twin towers on 9/11, Joe Asher’s life changed once again. He left Skadden Arps and joined Cantor Fitzgerald.

This is pretty wild handicapping on my part, but Joe Asher has the makings of a Steve Wynn. He has the firm resolve and ability to do almost anything he sets his mind on doing. Remembering happy days of his youth at Brandywine Raceway, and the people who befriended him then and remain his closest friends, he has named his new firm Brandywine Gaming. If he’s not a Wynn, he’s a winner.

Speaking of Steve Wynn, he was upstaged at the recent New York Racing Association hearings in Albany, New York, by a guy half his size. The star of the oratorical show was ex-jock Jerry Bailey, who told the hearing panel that his wide travels on horseback enabled him to pick the best talent for a new NYRA.

Maybe so, but I’ll give you another sure bet, along with Joe Asher. If Excelsior gets NYRA, its racing will be run not by Jerry Bailey, but by Chicago track operator Billy Johnston and his son John. It was John who got Bailey involved in Excelsior — they knew one another from their early days in Florida — and it will be Jerry talking and John doing if they wind up owning NYRA with their high powered associates.