Binion’s/Binion’s Horseshoe (1951-Present)
Binion’s/Binion’s Horseshoe (1951-Present)
Location: Downtown Las Vegas
128 E. Fremont St.
Las Vegas, NV 89101
What’s There Now: Binion’s
Closed: Still In Operation
Benny Binion buys Apache Hotel and Eldorado Club casino and opens Binion’s Horseshoe
Binion loses his gaming license over accusations of mob related activities and is forced to sell his stake in the hotel
Benny Binion is sentenced to five years in prison for tax evasion
Benny Binion is released from jail and his family regains controlling interest ownership of the hotel
The World Series of Poker is founded
Binion’s purchases neighboring The Mint hotel and casino and incorporates the property into the Horseshoe
Benny Binion dies; control of the hotel goes to his children
Binion’s Horseshoe sinks into bankruptcy and is siezed by federal regulators
Property closes on January 9
Property is purchased by Harrah’s Entertainment
Harrah’s Entertainment takes the Horseshoe name and World Series of Poker brand and sells the property to MTR Gaming
Property reopens as Binion’s in April
MTR Gaming sells Binion’s to TLC Casino Enterprises, owners of neighboring Four Queens
Hotel is closed on December 14; casino remains open
The property at 128 Fremont Street had a lot of different incarnations over the years leading up to 1951 when it became Binion’s Horseshoe. The hotel portion opened in 1932 as the Apache, most notable for being the first building in Las Vegas to have an elevator. The casino was also called The Apache and then later The Western Casino. In 1945 it became the SS Rex Club and then in 1947 the Eldorado Club. Through all this the hotel remained The Apache.
Benny Binion was a well-known mobster in Texas, effectively running the organized crime families in Dallas. Although he was never convicted, it is believed that Binion killed several people and was involved in everything from moonshine to illegal gambling. After the war ended, the Chicago mafia made a successful move on Texas and Benny Binion moved west to Las Vegas.
After buying into the Las Vegas Club, Binion purchased the Apache Hotel and the Eldorado Casino, renaming the latter Binion’s Horseshoe – the hotel would retain the Apache name into the 1960s.
The Horseshoe became popular with serious gamblers, drawn by the high limits betting action that Binion pioneered. No other casino in Vegas could match the bets Binion was willing to take although most tried to reach the bar that Binion kept moving.
Besides high stakes, Binion was at the forefront of a lot of casino innovations that we take for granted today. According to legend, free drinks were mainly only offered to high rollers but the Horseshoe was the first to offer free drinks to all players regardless of what they were wagering.
But Benny Binion’s reign over his property was short lived. He lost his gambling license in 1951 shortly after the Horseshoe opened and was sentenced to five years in prison in 1953 for tax evasion. Binion sold his stake in the casino to pay for his legal debts.
The Binion family regained controlling interest of Binion’s Horseshoe in 1957 and although Benny, now released from jail, could not formally run the place because of his criminal record, he was the de facto boss.
In 1970, Binion created one of the most enduring gambling legacies of all time: the World Series of Poker. The first tournament was invitation only and the winner was determined by secret ballot. By 1973 the series was open to anyone who had the $10,000 to buy in – there were 13 players. At it’s peak in 2006 there were nearly 9,000 entrants.
The Horseshoe property remained pretty much the same all the way until 1988 when the neighboring Mint hotel and casino was purchased and incorporated into Binion’s. The tall hotel tower was original part of The Mint and you can still recognize the border between the two properties in the casino – what used to be The Mint is a few steps higher than the Binion’s portion.
Benny Binion died in 1989 of heart failure and a protracted battle began for control of the casino between several of Binion’s children, Jack, Ted, and Becky.
Ted, who had been acting as the casino manager, took the lead until 1996 when he was officially banned from even entering the casino by the Gaming Control Board who suspected him of mob ties and drug use. Sister Becky Behnen took on a controlling interest in 1998 after Ted died.
Behnen was unsuccessful at running the property and it sank into debt and was unable to pay bills and meet payroll and other employee cost responsibilities. Federal regulators stepped in and seized the property on January 9, 2004. The property closed.
Binion’s was purchased out of bankruptcy by Harrah’s Entertainment but they only wanted rights to the Horseshoe name and the World Series of Poker. They turned around and sold the Binion’s hotel and casino to MTR Gaming on March 11, 2004. After some minor remodeling, the casino and hotel reopened in April of 2004 as simply Binion’s.
MTR sold the property to TLC Casino Enterprises, the company that owned neighboring Four Queens on March 7, 2008. TLC had big plans for the property including a new hotel tower but the global recession not only stopped the expansion plans, it forced the shutdown of the hotel entirely. The casino remained open but the hotel stopped accepting guests on December 14, 2009.
There are rumors that the hotel will get a major remodeling and reopen at some point but that has not been confirmed by the owners yet.