Horseshoe, also known as the Horseshoe Casino
or simply The Horseshoe, was a hotel and casino
located in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada on what
is now the Fremont Street Experience. The casino
was named for its founder, Benny Binion and had
366 rooms, three restaurants and a rooftop pool.
The property is still open, but Harrahs owns the
The Horseshoe brand name. As of 2008 it is owned
by TLC Corporation and runs under the name Binion's
Gambling Hall and Hotel.
Binion also instituted high table limits. When
he 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.
Unlike other casinos, the emphasis at Binion's
was on gambling, not on big performing acts. The
casino was also very egalitarian; there were no
private pits for high rollers.
Binion's entire family was involved in the casino.
His wife Teddy Jane managed the casino cage until
her death in 1994. His sons, Jack and Ted, supervised
the games. His daughter, Becky (later Becky Binion
Behnen), managed the kitchen.
The Horseshoe brand was used for several casino
properties owned by the Binion family members.
While not part of the same company, the other
Horseshoe Casinos were owned by Jack Binion, a
co-owner of Binion's.
Binion bought the Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel
in 1951, re-opening them as the Horseshoe Casino.
He styled it like an old-style riverboat, with
low ceilings and velvet wallpaper. It was the
first casino to have carpeting, as well as comps
that were offered to all gamblers. Benny believed
that small-time gamblers should get the same comps
as those who bet big money.
served time in Leavenworth Penitentiary from 1953
to 1957 for tax evasion. He sold his share of
the casino to fellow gambler Joe W. Brown to pay
approximately $5 million in 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 dollar 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 casinos
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 remained on the payroll
as a "consultant" until his death in
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 percent interest
to his younger sister, Becky.
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 other
gambling interests. Behnen became president of
the Horseshoe while her husband, Nick, took over
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
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 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
A few days later, on January 23, Behnen reached
a deal to sell the Horseshoe to Harrah's Entertainment.
The deal closed in March 2004. Almost immediately,
on March 11, Harrah's sold the Horseshoe to MTR
Gaming Group. Harrah's retained the rights to
the Horseshoe brand and the World Series of Poker
when it sold the casino and hotel, but sold the
Binion's brand. The land the casino sits on is
still leased from multiple owners.
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 with MTR Gaming until March
11, 2005 when MTR Gaming Group officially took
control of the operation of the casino and renamed
it Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel.
MTR Gaming 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. (Credit: Wikipedia).
Horseshoe - Classic WSOP Ground