Fecha de registro: 10 nov 2022


How Las Vegas became the casino capital of the world

It may be hard to imagine, but Las Vegas has not always been that city for casinos, entertainment and coloured lights. In fact, just under 100 years ago, it was still a small village in the middle of the Nevada desert where fairly little happened. This only started to change after the Hoover Dam was built in 1930. But how did Las Vegas become the entertainment capital of the world? And who played an important role in this?

The construction of the Hoover Dam created many jobs in a place where nothing else was happening. Men in particular flocked to Las Vegas to build the dam, but there was little to do after work. The fact that there was little to nothing to do was something that formed the perfect foundation for how we know Las Vegas today, a place full of entertainment, gambling and booze. Something almost every man loved, especially at the time.

However, there was one person who set the ball rolling to make Las Vegas a place full of gambling. That person of Benny Binion, an avid gambler at heart. At a young age, Lester Ben(ny) Binion was already running an illegal casino in the state of Texas. Especially in the city of Dallas, Binion was calling the shots when it came to gambling and illegal betting shops. However, Binion got competition, and not just any competition, he got competition from the mafia. A competition Binion could not win, so the entrepreneur left for Las Vegas in 1946 to seek refuge.

Benny and the legendary Horseshoe casino

A few years after Binion arrived in Las Vegas, the Texan decided to buy the Eldorado club and the Apache hotel. After remodelling and reopening, it was then known as Binion´s horseshoe casino. At the time, more casinos were already present in Las Vegas, but Binion decided to do things differently from the other casinos present at the time.

At the time, dice was the most popular casino game. At the other casinos, the maximum bet for dice was $50 per roll. Binion raised this amount to a whopping $500 per roll. Thus, the horseshoe became the casino for the hardcore gambler who wanted to gamble with larger amounts.

So an anecdote goes around that one day a man walked into the casino with $1 million. Which is a huge amount, but was an even more huge amount for that time period. A $1 million bet was certainly not something any casino would accept, but Benny Binnion's casino did. The player bet $1 million on the pass line at dice, which would allow him to double his money.

Unfortunately for the man, he lost his bet, however, the man would have seen his money doubled if he did win. Binion understood the importance of a casino's reputation, and this attitude earned him a reputation as a man of his word.

Another thing Binion did differently from his competitors was the entertainment in the casinos themselves. At other casinos, it was normal to have live music or other live entertainment. This was not the case at Binion's casino, as all this extra entertainment only distracts from gambling. In addition, it was normal at the horseshoe to get free drinks, making players play longer. At the time, this was very unusual, but it worked to the casino's advantage. Therefore, more casinos soon followed Binion's example.

The casino remained successful, making Binion a legendary name in Las Vegas. Even though he always took risks in taking big bets, Benny knew that the house always had an advantage and would always be on the winning side in the long run.

Horseshoe casino continues to grow

To continue to grow and make more of a name for itself, Binion raised its dice limits from $500 per roll to $10,000. Which was a huge amount at the time. Binion eventually removed the maximum limit, making the Horseshoe casino the go-to casino for gamblers.

However, not everything went smoothly for Benny. Indeed, his past from the time he ran an illegal casino in Dallas, Texas haunted him, while at the time he was doing well with a legal casino in Las Vegas. All the while, in fact, the Dallas police were investigating Benny. The moment they had enough evidence against Benny, they arrested him and Benny was convicted of tax evasion, which earned him a 42-month prison sentence. This was perhaps not the worst part, as it is not possible to run a casino if you have a criminal record. As a result, Binion lost his casino licence. However, his son took over the licence and took over the business while Benny was serving his 42-month prison sentence.

So his son, Jack Binion, is taking over the casino, and that is not putting The Horseshoe to shame. Even though there appeared to be little confidence in Las Vegas that Jack was the right man, Jack proved the Las Vegas community wrong.

After Jack's release, Benny was given an advisory role within the company, Jack therefore ran the casino with his father's philosophy. Especially with regard to offering high limits in order to attract the real gamblers in Las Vegas to the casino. Son jack proved to be a true businessman and therefore ensured that the casino continued to grow and build its name and fame. An important step in the growth of The Horseshoe was the purchase of the adjacent Mint Casino and hotel for $27 million in 1988. This grew the casino into an even bigger casino where more and more people came to gamble on the increasingly popular Blackjack and roulette games.

The start of the WSOP at The Horseshoe

One of the Binion family's most important additions to Las Vegas was hosting the World Series of Poker. Poker was not as popular in 1970 as it has been in recent years. However, the Binions saw potential in the game and came up with the plan to host the WSOP in the Horse shoe. By this time, Benny was very well known in Las Vegas and knew exactly who played poker and who didn't. So he came up with the idea of organising a tournament to find out who was the best poker player in Las Vegas. At the time, only seven people participated. However, it did lay the foundations for the WSOP we know today which attracts 10 thousands of people from all over the world.

In 2022, more than 10,000 entries are expected for the Main Event alone. This year, the WSOP features 89 live tournaments as well as online tournaments where a WSOP bracelet can be earned. However, this all started in 1970 with seven people at a poker table in the Horse Shoe Casino.

The best part is that the famous Doyle Brunson was present at the first ever WSOP. More than 50 years later, the same Doyle Brunson is still attending the WSOP. As such, he has managed to win 10 bracelets in those years. His first WSOP win dates from 1976 and his last win from 2005.

A major step for the WSOP and Las Vegas was in 1972 when the tournament had 12 players competing in a $5000 Freeze-out tournament. The winner of that tournament a well-known gambler called Amarillo Slim. Slim then went around the country talking about his win as the best poker player in the world and making a name for himself at the WSOP. As a result, more and more players gradually flocked to the WSOP and there was even a TV crew at the 1973 WSOP.

By the late 1980s, however, interest was so great that the Horseshoe casino actually became too small for the WSOP. As a result, the Horseshoe expanded by buying up adjacent casinos and hotels to expand and accommodate the WSOP.

Unfortunately, Benny died of a heart attack on 25 December 1989. Unfortunately, this meant he was never able to make the WSOP's growth into a huge poker festival with thousands of players.

Finally, Ceasars entertainment bought the Horseshoe casino in 2004, which also gave it the rights to host the WSOP. This moved the WSOP to the RIO casino in Las Vegas during the poker boom that took place worldwide.

Binion's legacy

Nowadays, the horse shoe casino operates under the name Hotel Apache and the Binions are no longer involved with the place. However, Jack Binion is still active in the Las Vegas casino scene. Indeed, he has an advisory role at the famous casino.

That the Binions made their mark on Las Vegas with their high limits, different take on entertainment in the casinos and hosting the hugely popular WSOP is undeniable. Las Vegas would probably have looked very different without the influence of the Binion family.

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