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Old 01-12-2004, 02:58 AM
kiwi steve kiwi steve is offline
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Default Vegas landmark Horseshoe casino closed

Vegas landmark Horseshoe casino closed

By CHRISTINA ALMEIDA
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER

LAS VEGAS -- A landmark hotel-casino was closed indefinitely after federal agents shut down the casino floor and seized an estimated $500,000 to pay for unpaid employee benefits.

The front doors were locked Saturday and yellow police tape greeted visitors to Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino, a downtown Las Vegas fixture for 52 years and home to the wildly popular World Series of Poker.

"It's the end of an era," said Jim DiGiorgio, an adult film director who was among the guests told to find a new hotel Saturday.

Some 900 Binion's employees were left without work after owner Becky Binion Behnen agreed to close the property until she could find enough money to reopen it, said Keith Copher, chief enforcement officer of the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

Gamblers watched in disbelief Friday night as U.S. marshals shut down the casino floor. The agents were enforcing a court order against the property, which has not paid about $3 million in pension and health insurance benefits since last summer for an estimated 400 union employees, said D. Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Union Local 226.

"This was a desperation measure on our part," he said. "It's never good when something like this happens." He added that the union will help its members find other jobs.

During an emergency meeting Saturday of the Nevada Gaming Commission, Behnen agreed to a suspended gambling license and will have to show she has obtained the property's minimum bankroll requirements before reopening, Copher said. He declined to say what that amount would be, citing confidentiality requirements.

Behnen did not attend the brief meeting in Las Vegas, but her lawyer appeared on her behalf. Copher said she promised the commission that she would honor all bets and jackpots won at the hotel-casino.

Behnen did not return calls seeking comment, and messages left for her lawyer were not immediately returned. Phones rang unanswered at the hotel-casino Saturday afternoon.

Legendary cowboy Benny Binion founded the casino in 1951 in downtown's Glitter Gulch. Binion's became popular as a high-stakes gambling spot where reportedly no bet was turned away.

Binion, who died in 1989, began the World Series of Poker in 1970 and watched the annual tournament grow into poker's premier event.

"Assuming the doors don't reopen, it's a sad, final chapter to what was a great story," said Nolan Dalla, former media director of the tournament.

Downtown was once the center of the Vegas gambling scene, but the area has languished in recent years under the blinding lights of the Las Vegas Strip, a few miles south in unincorporated Clark County.

City efforts to revitalize the area would take a hit if Binion's closed for good; the casino sits along the Fremont Street Experience, a casino-lined pedestrian mall that is downtown's main attraction.

The hotel-casino has been mired in financial troubles. The Internal Revenue Service filed a lien against the property in November, claiming $5 million in unpaid payroll taxes dating to 2002. The IRS filed a second lien last month, claiming $2.5 million in back taxes.

Frances and Scott McKissick, of Irving, Texas, stopped by the hotel-casino early Saturday to see whether it had reopened. Although they wanted to cash in two winning bets placed the night before, the couple said they were more concerned about a favorite hotel closing.

"It's got a lot of history," said Frances McKissick, 41. "It's going to take away from the tradition of Fremont."

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Old 01-12-2004, 03:20 AM
SlipperyPete SlipperyPete is offline
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Default RE:Vegas landmark Horseshoe casino closed

Thanks for the "breaking news" Steve. LOL
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