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BINION'S

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Downtown Las Vegas

128 E. Fremont Street

Las Vegas, NV 89101

800-622-6468

website

280 Rooms

$49 and up

$50-$100 per night

48

AT A GLANCE

Highs

Pure old-Vegas casino in a dark and smoky kind of way.

Lows

Just about everything else.

Location: 6

Right on Fremont Street.

Price: 0

The hotel is closed; only the casino remains open.

Value: 0

Hard to find value when you can't actually stay here.

Rooms: 0

The hotel rooms are closed.

Casino: 10

I like old Vegas in a dark and smoky way.

Amenities: 0

What amenities?

Facilities: 0

Unless you count the casino.

Service: 3

No comment.

Fun: 4

Only because of the casino.

Bonus: 5

Ditto.

Total: 28

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FULL REVIEW

As of this writing Binion's is not so much a hotel as it is a casino with some empty rooms on top of it. Those rooms are closed indefinitely until the owners determine there is enough of a demand to warrant opening them back up again. If it does happen, don't even think about staying there until you read that the rooms have been remodeled - they were worn out before the hotel closed and will need some major love to make them habitable much less competitive.

The history of Binion's Horseshoe is a long and often tortured one. It opened in 1951, when reputed mobster Benny Benion took over the old El Dorado club and Apache hotel. It gained fame for its display of a million dollars in cash and later, in the 1970s, as the home of the World Series of Poker. After his death in 1989, his children tried to keep the place afloat but eventually money problems led to its closure in 2003. It was bought by Harrah's, who quickly stole the World Series of Poker and the Horseshoe name and then dumped the property to the first company to wave a check in their face. A series of owners finally led to the current ones who did some spiffing up of the public areas but then, as mentioned, shuttered the hotel rooms.

People had been asking me for years why I didn't have a review of Binion's on this site. This fabled institution has been a fixture in Downtown Vegas for decades so it was a reasonable question with a reasonable response: they wouldn't let me. I tried to gain access for a hotel review only to be turned down or ignored time and again. And it wasn't just me - some big names in the travel industry have tried to get in to get a peek at Binion's and the vault door had remained closed.

Note that all of what I'm about to describe happened before the current management came on board.

Some staff and management changes (pre-closure) led to a change of heart at Binion's so I was thrilled to get an invitation to take a formal tour of the hotel. That's the good news. The bad news is the PR guy was at Kinko's when I arrived and the hotel manager was too busy to be bothered so I wound up getting let into a room by Marc, one of the bellmen who, while genial, was mostly concerned that I spell his name correctly. Marc with a "c." Got it.

Therefore my formal review wasn't very formal and you'll pardon me if I was a bit miffed by the whole experience.

Of course the casino is the main lure here. A dark, smoky, wood paneled, and red, flocked wallpaper wonder made famous by the World Series of Poker broadcast ad infinitum on cable, Binion's is the kind of place that makes you want to play some card game while drinking whisky, smoking, swearing, and maybe even spitting - even if you don't do those things normally. It's pure, undiluted Vegas and it definitely isn't for everyone but if you don't like the corporate sanitization on The Strip you should head here first.

The World Series of Poker moved away to The Rio and the casino has gotten some "spiffing up" but the overall effect is still mostly the same. And actually that's okay with me. This is the one area of the hotel I actually liked the old way.

There is a pool open only during the summer. It's on the roof of the hotel tower and could be nice but I didn't see that either so really, who knows?

There are a few restaurants and bars but that's about it for diversions other than gambling. It's worth noting that many of the old classic Binion's eateries that offered the famed Cheap Eats have been replaced with outlets that are still fairly cheap but not anywhere near as interesting.

Service is... well, I won't condemn the entire hotel staff based on my limited experience. Marc, seemed very nice. And I saw this one casino attendant who was maybe five feet tall but only because she had a foot of big blonde hair. I decided her name was Cookie even though that really wasn't her name. It's just that kind of place. I was hoping the new owners would focus on service as a way of improving the overall vibe of the place but my experiences there since my official unofficial visit haven't been much better.

It's been awhile since those new owners have taken over and I haven't seen much in the way of improvements that make me hopeful for the hotel's future, but I still have a soft spot for the tradition and history of the place so here's to hoping things change for the better.

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