Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel
|Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel|
|Location||Las Vegas, Nevada 89101|
|Address||128 E. Fremont Street|
|Theme||Vintage Las Vegas|
|Notable restaurants||Binion's Ranch Steakhouse|
|Owner||TLC Casino Enterprises, Inc.|
|Previous names||Eldorado Club
Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel, formerly Binion's Horseshoe, is a casino on the Fremont Street Experience in Downtown Las Vegas, Nevada. It is owned by TLC Casino Enterprises. The casino is named for its founder, Benny Binion, whose family ran it from its founding in 1951 until 2004. The hotel, which had 366 rooms, closed in 2009.
Benny Binion bought the Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel in 1951, re-opening them as Binion's Horseshoe (also called the Horseshoe Casino). The casino's interior had a frontier flavor, like an old-style riverboat, with low ceilings and velvet wallpaper. It was the first casino in downtown Las Vegas (also called Glitter Gulch) to replace sawdust-covered floors with carpeting, and was the first to offer comps to all gamblers, not just those who bet big money. Binion also instituted high table limits. When Binion first opened the Horseshoe, he set the craps table limit at $500—ten times higher than any other casino in Las Vegas at the time. Ultimately, Binion's raised the table limit to $10,000 and even eliminated table limits completely at times, which was an immediate hit.
Benny served time in Leavenworth Penitentiary from 1953 to 1957 for tax evasion. He sold a majority share of the casino to fellow gambler and New Orleans oilman Joe W. Brown to cover back taxes and legal costs. It was generally understood, however, that Brown was only a caretaker, and Benny regained controlling interest in 1957. He did not regain full control, however, until 1964.
While Brown operated the casino, he installed the famous $1 million display on the casino floor. He sold the display in 1959 and it was later recreated using 100 $10,000 bills by Benny in 1964. The display became one of the casino's attractions.
As a convicted felon, Benny was no longer allowed to hold a gaming license, so his sons took over day-to-day control when the family bought out Brown. Jack became president while Ted became casino manager. Benny assumed the title of Director of Public Relations.
In 1970, Jack began hosting the World Series of Poker (WSOP) at the Horseshoe. Eventually, the WSOP became the largest set of poker tournaments in the world. In 1988, the Horseshoe expanded by acquiring The Mint, a high-rise hotel on the west side of the casino. The expansion of the casino from this purchase provided room for Binion's first poker room.
Ted was under constant scrutiny from the Nevada Gaming Commission from 1986 onward for drug problems and associating with known mob figure "Fat Herbie" Blitzstein. He would ultimately be banned from even entering his family's casino. In 1998, he was stripped of his gaming license for his continued association with Blitzstein. He was forced to sell his 20% interest to his younger sister, Becky.
In 1998, Becky Behnen acquired controlling interest in the casino following a protracted legal battle with her older brother Jack. The battle ended with Jack being bought out while retaining a 1% interest in the casino so that he could retain his Nevada gaming license. Jack moved on to focus on Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corporation, running other casinos under the Horseshoe brand. Behnen became president of the Horseshoe while her husband, Nick, took over as manager.
Behnen implemented several cost-cutting measures, most of which were unpopular with the gamblers. Among the most notable was the removal of the Horseshoe exhibit that held $1 million, having been sold to collector Jay Parrino, that had served as a backdrop for free pictures of visitors.
She also made changes in the distribution of the money from the entry fees in the World Series of Poker that were unpopular with the casino dealers, and closed a popular restaurant in the casino. Benny had used one of the tables in the restaurant as his office. Despite these measures, the Horseshoe became bogged down in debt. Under her father and brothers, the Horseshoe had reportedly been the most profitable casino in Las Vegas (it was privately held, so it never had to report its earnings).
Behnen also attracted the attention of the state regulators by failing to keep sufficient funds available to pay winners in the casino cage. Bob Stupak also drew negative publicity to the casino when he tried to redeem his $5,000 casino tokens, some of which were stored in the casino's own safe deposit boxes, and Becky refused to honor them.
Behnen's undoing, however, was a dispute with the unions that represented some of the Horseshoe's employees. In November 2002, the Culinary Workers Union and Bartenders Union filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that Behnen hadn't signed a collective bargaining agreement and had fallen behind on medical insurance and pension payments. The parties reached a settlement in March 2003 in which the Horseshoe signed the collective bargaining agreement and agreed to pay the owed money. However, the Horseshoe fell behind on its payments, leading a federal judge to issue two separate judgments ordering the Horseshoe to pay over $1.5 million. The judgments gave the union the right to seize the money if regular payments weren't being met.
However, the casino stopped making payments in June. After holding off numerous times, on December 5 the Culinary Union obtained a court order authorizing the seizure of up to $1.9 million from the Horseshoe casino cage. The seizure took place on January 9; ultimately federal marshals and IRS agents seized $1 million in order to satisfy debts owed to the Southern Nevada Culinary and Bartenders Pension Trust Fund and to the Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees International Union Welfare Fund. The seizure effectively depleted the Horseshoe's bankroll, forcing it to close. A day later, the hotel was shut down as well, and Behnen reached an agreement with the Nevada Gaming Commission to keep the casino closed until its bankroll was replenished. A few days later, on January 23, Behnen reached a deal to sell the Horseshoe to Harrah's Entertainment.
Days after the purchase by Harrah's closed, while retaining the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, they sold the physical property and the Binion's brand on March 11, 2004, to MTR Gaming Group.
Binion's reopened in April 2004, with MTR Gaming operating the hotel and Harrah's Entertainment operating the casino, while MTR Gaming completed the process of acquiring the required gaming license. Harrah's continued to operate the casino under a temporary contract until March 11, 2005, when MTR officially took control of the operation of the casino and renamed it Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel.
MTR remodeled both the casino and hotel after the purchase. A notable feature of the remodeling was to replace the casino's worn carpet with surplus carpeting that Benny Binion had stored since initially carpeting the casino.
In July 2005, Binion's hosted the WSOP main event for the last time. The tournament had outgrown the space at Binion's, and Harrah's wanted to host it at one of its properties. In 2005, all events, except the final three tables of the main event, were played at the Rio All Suite Hotel and Casino. The casino still retains a large poker area and features displays on the Poker Hall of Fame as well as previous WSOP Champions.
The $1 million casino floor display, once a free tourist photo attraction, returned in August 2008. With $10,000 bills no longer widely available, the new display contains 2,700 $100 bills, 34,400 $20 bills and 42,000 $1 bills.
On purchasing Binion's, TLC had announced a plan to expand the hotel with a new tower, but on December 14, 2009, they closed the hotel and coffee shop due to the late-2000s recession. TLC continues to operate the hotel at the Four Queens casino across the street, which has almost twice as many rooms. Previously, Binion's advertised the hotel as closed for renovations. However, due to costly removal of asbestos in the hotel preventing its renovation, there are no current plans to renovate and re-open the hotel. Indeed, currently the check-in counter only houses discount T-shirt sales.
Despite hotel closure, the casino remains open.
The hotel was seen in the 2007 film Lucky You. Its history was also mentioned in "Chum Goes AWOL", a second season episode of the History Channel reality television series Pawn Stars, which aired in 2010.
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The largest collection of $10,000 bills, 100 (Series 1934) to make for a total value of $1,000,000, used to be on display at Binion's Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada
- Doug Swanson. Blood Aces, (New York: Penguin Books, 2014), p. 246. ISBN 9780143127581
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