In 1951, Benny Binion brought $2 million from Dallas, TX and bought the old El Dorado Casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas,NV, renamed it Binion's Horseshoe and a legendary gaming family was born.

The Horseshoe in Vegas is still famous for taking the biggest action in town and for hosting the World Series of Poker.

Family problems among Benny's children eventually led to daughter Becky Binion Behnen buying out all but 1% of her siblings' interests in the Las Vegas property in 1998. From the time of Benny's death in 1989 until Becky's takeover her brother Jack Binion had been running the Horseshoe. This buyout led to an estrangement of Becky from her brothers. Becky runs the casino along with husband, Nick Behnen and their son Benny Behnen, Jr. Jack retained the right to use the Horseshoe name in all areas outside of Nevada.

Another son, Lonnie "Ted" Binion, had his Nevada Gaming License suspended in 1986 after a drug conviction. In March, 1998 the license was permanently revoked for associating with organized crime figures. He was found dead in his million-dollar home on September 17, 1998 at the age of 55. He was a known heroin addict worth an estimated $50 million. Ted’s girlfriend Sandy Murphy, a one-time stripper, and her friend, Rick Tabish, both were convicted of killing Ted by forcing him to swallow a mixture of black tar heroin and the sedative Xanax.

Benny's son, Jack has opened up three Horseshoe Casinos: one in Tunica ,Mississippi another in Bossier, Louisana, and the latest in Hammond, Indiana. The Tunica property is well known for having lots of great poker action (including a daily pot limit game) and they host an annual Jack Binion World Poker Open event in late January, before the World Series of Poker.

Update: 2/23/02

I recently returned from a trip to Las Vegas where I again stayed at the legendary Horseshoe Casino. The casino seems to have changed considerably since my last visit a few years ago. They have $1,000 limits on their sportsbook and the highest limit craps game they offered was $3,000. While these may seem like huge wagers it really pales in comparison to the places on the strip. The Horseshoe was always known for being the place that would take the largest action. Now I don't think any of the real big players hang out there at all.

The most recent news from the Las Vegas Tribune (written by Former Las Vegas City Councilman and Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner Steve Miller) is that the Las Vegas venue of the Horseshoe is now having financial difficulties. The newspaper reported that they are over a year behind and $1.8 million in debt to the Fremont Street Experience, LLC, which runs the light show in the canopy covering the sidewalk between the downtown casinos. They have also fallen behind in other lease payments and payments to suppliers. A judge ordered 1.8 million dollars of the Horseshoe's money to be frozen, but the Horseshoe won an appeal to delay the freezing of its assets.

It is sad to see this venerable landmark in such a sorry state of affairs. It has been rumoured that Jack was offered a chance to buy back 1/2 of the Las Vegas property and he refused the opportunity. Jack's casinos outside of Vegas have been doing very well and it's understandable that he would turn down a chance to own a business that is in obvious decline.

Update: 1/12/04

The Horseshoe Casino in Las Vegas was closed on January 9, 2004. An estimated 900 workers lost their jobs when the Horseshoe was unable to maintain a bankroll after U.S. marshals seized all of the available cash in the casino's cages Friday night, executing a federal judge's order allowing the Culinary parent union's health care and pension trust funds to seize as much as $2 million.

It's unknown how much cash was seized, but the total seizure was less than the $2 million authorized; a U.S. deputy marshal estimated the amount as about $1 million on Friday night.

Binion's future is unclear. The casino has been in financial turmoil for some time, and the IRS filed two separate liens - for $2.5 million and $5 million - last year for back taxes. They also have liens against them for debts owed to the Fremont Street Experience.