The slow decline of poker’s most historic venue continues, following the news that Binion’s Hotel and Casino have shut their 365 room hotel. In 1970, the titular casino owner Benny Binion created the World Series of Poker, undoubtedly the most successful poker tournament in the history of the game. For 35 years, the casino and hotel played host to this hallowed event, as it grew from a meager single table tournament to a world renowned spectacle with thousands of entrants.
For decades, Binion’s was the home of Las Vegas poker. The likes of Doyle Brunson and Stu Ungar would regularly be found settling down at the felt in the vibrant poker room. However, throughout the 90s its cache slowly waned. In 1998 Benny’s daughter Becky Behnen took over operations and things began to spiral out of control. The casino reached a low point in 2004, when U.S. Marshals orchestrated a raid, in order to obtain unpaid employee benefits. Shortly after that, the building and the WSOP were sold to Harrah’s. They moved the WSOP to the Rio in 2006 and sold of the building to the MTR Gaming Group, who then sold it to TLC Enterprises in 2008.
A spokeswoman for TLC announced, “Our hotel rooms were no longer competitive in the market. We had to make cuts where our biggest drains were.” She added that, “we plan to reopen [the hotel], but we can’t speculate when that will happen.” Most of the gambling areas in the casino remain open, but the coffee shop and Keno parlour are also for the chop. As a result of these closures, around 100 of Binion’s 800 employees will lose their jobs.
Poker fans and historians will be happy to hear that Binion’s small poker room continues to operate. It houses 10 tables, along with the Gallery of Champions, an exhibition which commemorates the long history of the WSOP. Phil Hellmuth, Doyle Brunson, Stu Ungar, and Chris Moneymaker have all picked up Main Event bracelets in that room, and nowhere else in the world is there such a concentration of poker history.
The hotel will shut its doors on the 14th of December, up to which point all reservations are being honoured. Anyone booked in beyond that point will be transferred to another one of TLC Enterprises’ downtown properties. The Four Queens will now be the rest destination of choice for anyone planning to visit Binion’s Casino.