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The Gaming Hall of Fame

1990 Inductee

Benny Binion

Benny Binion

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Benny Binion (1904-1989) is a pioneer in downtown Las Vegas gambling and poker.

Born in Pilot Grove, Texas, Binion developed an early interest in gambling. As a young man, he moved in horse-trading circles and, as most of the horse traders were inveterate gamblers, also became a gambler.

In 1928, Binoin began running a "numbers" or "policy" operation in Dallas. During Prohibition, Binion by his own admission "did some bootlegging" but never ran a profit. Beginning in 1936, he got involved in the "dice business" (illegal craps games). In 1946, Binion came out on the losing end of electoral politics, and, lacking political protection, was forced to close his operations in Dallas.

While some of his confederates went to Reno, Binion followed J. Kell Houssels to Las Vegas, where he acquired a part ownership of the Las Vegas Club. Binion then built the Westerner, but in 1951 decided to buy the Eldorado Club.

Binion renamed the gambling hall the Horseshoe and immediately installed carpeting--a novel idea for downtown clubs at the time. The Horseshoe was, from the beginning, a family affair; his two sons, Ted and Jack, supervised the games and his wife Teddy Jane kept the books.

The Horseshoe gained a reputation for high limits, the trademark of Binion's approach to gambling.

In 1970, Binion hosted the first World Series of Poker, then a small tournament of truly elite players. The World Series was both a poker tournament and a premier advertisement for the casino. Other marketing efforts included the famous $1 million dollar display and a working stagecoach that traveled the rodeo circuit.

In 1988, the Horseshoe acquired its next-door neighbor the Mint. The Horseshoe's neon facade soon enveloped the Mint, and the Mint's highrise tower gave the Horseshoe a bevy of hotel rooms and a new vertical prominence.

Binion died on Christmas Day, 1989, and left behind a tremendous legacy, both for his downtown casino and his role in creating high stakes tournament poker. Though the casino he once ran is no longer called the "Horseshoe," it is still known as "Binion's," in recognition of the patriarch's memory and reputation.

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Last modified Tuesday, 10-Mar-2009 15:01:24 PDT

 

 

This page last updated Tuesday, 10-Mar-2009 15:01:24 PDT .