The legendary Horseshoe brand has been an integral part of Las Vegas history since its inception. It all started with Binion’s Horseshoe, a casino that played a significant role in shaping the city’s gaming industry. With the upcoming return of the Horseshoe brand to Las Vegas, it’s the perfect time to delve into the rich history of this iconic name, from its early beginnings to its modern resurgence. Below, we’ll explore the fascinating story of the Horseshoe, including its most memorable moments, key players, and milestones.
The Origins of the Horseshoe Brand: Binion’s Horseshoe
The history of the Horseshoe can be traced back to 1951, when Benny Binion, a legendary gambling figure from Texas, purchased the Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel, located in Downtown Las Vegas. Binion combined the two properties and opened Binion’s Horseshoe, which would later become one of the most famous casinos in the world. Known for its high-stakes gambling, Binion’s Horseshoe quickly attracted a loyal following of gamblers who appreciated Benny’s philosophy of treating players like royalty.
The Johnny Moss vs. Nick “The Greek” Dandolos Poker Game
One of the most memorable events in the Horseshoe’s history took place in 1951 when Benny Binion organized a high-stakes poker game between two of the most famous gamblers of the time – Johnny Moss and Nick “The Greek” Dandolos.
The game, which lasted for five months, was played in the public area in front of the Horseshoe to ensure that it attracted as many curious rubber-neckers as possible. After several months of play, Johnny Moss came out victorious. Johnny Moss, about twenty years later, was also crowned the first winner of the World Series of Poker, which also would be held at Binion’s Horseshoe.
Benny Binion’s “No Limit” Approach to Betting
Benny Binion was known for his bold approach to gambling, famously declaring that he would accept bets of any size, no matter how big they may be. This “no limit” policy set Binion’s Horseshoe apart from other casinos at the time, all of which would set limits on their bets to better manage their risk. Benny’s willingness to accept big bets not only attracted high-rolling gamblers to his casino and attracted many onlookers, but also helped establish Las Vegas as the gambling capital of the world.
The $10,000 Bills?
The Binion family kept 100 $10,000 bills in a horseshoe-shaped case at Binion’s Horseshoe for nearly 50 years. More than 5 million people are said to have had their pictures taken in front of the million-dollar attraction before it was taken down. In separate auctions, four of the bills were sold by auction ranging in prices from $112,000 to $188,000 each. It was the ideal location for a selfie decades before selfies ever existed!
The Closure and Sale of Binion’s Horseshoe in the Early 2000s
Sadly, in the 2000s, the glory days of the Horseshoe came to an end with the casino succumbing to financial difficulties that led to its unfortunate closure and sale back in 2004. Unpaid employee wages and a large tax bill put an end to Binion’s Horseshoe as we knew it. The building was taken over by the MTR Gaming Group, who renamed it Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel in 2005.
Caesars Entertainment’s Acquisition of the Horseshoe Casinos and the World Series of Poker
Prior to the sale of the Binion’s Horseshoe building to MTR Gaming, the property was purchased by Caesars Entertainment (known as Harrah’s Entertainment at the time) who, prior to selling the building stripped out and retained both the rights to the Horseshoe brand in Las Vegas and the World Series of Poker (WSOP) – both of which are still held by the company to this day.
This opened a new chapter for the Horseshoe brand in Las Vegas as Harrah’s sought to expand its offerings, leveraging the prestigious WSOP name in order to do so. As part of their mission to increase the WSOP’s reach in 2005, Caesars relocated the WSOP from Binion’s, where it had always been held previously, to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino.
Jack Binion, a prominent member of the Binion Family, who held the rights to expand the Horseshoe brand outside of Las Vegas developed Horseshoe-branded casinos in Mississippi, Indiana and Louisiana. Harrah’s bought these casinos as well for $1.45 billion in 2004, and then held all rights to the Horseshoe casino brand everywhere. Caesars subsequently developed and re-branded a few casinos in other states to the Horseshoe brand.
The Horseshoe Brand Returns to Las Vegas
The Horseshoe brand has finally made its much-anticipated return to Las Vegas. In 2022, Caesars Entertainment revealed that it has plans to rebrand Bally’s Las Vegas as Horseshoe Las Vegas in a bid to breathe new life into the property.
Bally’s Las Vegas, was originally opened in 1973, when it was known as the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. As visitors to Las Vegas will probably know, it has been a prominent fixture on the strip ever since then. In the 1980s, there was, tragically, a fire that consumed the MGM Grand, leading to it being sold and renamed Bally’s in 1986. Since then, it has been renovated and restored many times.
The Transition from Bally’s to Horseshoe Las Vegas
Bally’s officially transitioned to the Horseshoe in April 2023. As part of its rebranding efforts, Caesars Entertainment has invested a substantial amount of money renovating the public spaces. The WSOP was already relocated from Rio to the Horseshoe in 2022. The Horseshoe includes a Jack Binion’s Steakhouse, which features an 1,800 degree broiler. The Horseshoe has adopted some family-friendly amenities as it currently hosts The Potted Potter – Harry Potter Parody, a 70-minute show about the popular series as well as an 80-game arcade, miniature golf course, and a dinosaur safari.
As Caesars Entertainment completes the transformation of Bally’s into Horseshoe Las Vegas, a whole new generation of visitors will have the chance to experience the legendary brand for themselves. It is a testament to the enduring appeal and influence of the Horseshoe brand and a fitting tribute to the indelible mark Benny Binion left on the world of gambling that his Horseshoe brand should be making an appearance again more than 70 years since he first started out with a vision and a passion for gambling that could be matched by few people in Vegas. It really is an exciting time for the Strip.