Landry’s exploring Binion’s deal

May 22, 2007 4:00 AM

The sale of the troubled Binion’s Gambling Hall appears possible by the end of the week, probably to Landry’s, the Houston-based restaurant chain that owns the Golden Nugget casinos on Fremont Street and in Laughlin.

Why does a sale appear imminent? There has been no mistaking the presence of Landry’s and Nugget officials at the Binion’s facility during recent days. Some of them have even spent a night or two in the 55-year-old casino opened by the late Benny Binion.

They have been going over the casino from top to bottom, not the sort of thing that happens because of casual curiosity.

Couple this with the fact that MTR Gaming, the West Virginia company that owns Binion’s, appears to have focused on its racinos in Pennsylvania and West Virginia. MTR’s hopes of reviving the fortunes of the sagging Fremont Street casino have taken a back seat to hopes of taking advantage of recent West Virginia legislation that allows table games.

The neighboring Four Queens has also shown an interest in Binion’s, but a variety of downtown sources say that if a sale is completed to anyone in the near future it will almost certainly be to Landry’s, whose chairman Tilman Fertitta has been eyeing the aging Horseshoe since he settled in at the Nugget.

The Horseshoe was a casino industry legend during the years when it was run by Binion and his sons. No casino accepted higher limits, but the 1989 death of Benny signaled the beginning of the end for the casino’s best days.

Deal of the century

Longtime Strip property broker David Atwell looks at the pending sale of Phil Ruffin’s New Frontier with the perspective of a man who has been involved in big property sales in Las Vegas for a number of years.

It was Atwell of Resort Properties of America who brought the principals in the Frontier deal together last summer. The sale of some 36 acres to El Ad Properties, the owner of New York’s Plaza, is worth more than $1.2 billion.

Atwell’s other credits include the sale of the Dunes to Japanese businessman Masau Nangaku in 1988. Atwell says of the Frontier sale, "This may be the finest Strip project we have seen yet. The idea of a quality brand Plaza project next to (Donald) Trump and Wynn on the Las Vegas skyline is incredible. This is a record-setting deal in many ways."

El Ad’s goal is to create a new resort inspired by the Plaza.

Wynn (who else?)buys world’s largest ”˜rock’

The largest diamond in the world, all 231 carats of it, will soon be on display in Macau at the Wynn Diamond Suites.

Steve Wynn was saying he had fond memories of the old days at his Golden Nugget in Las Vegas where he displayed the "Hand of Faith," the largest golden nugget in the world. It had been discovered in Australia and Wynn had flown there to buy it, thinking his casino was the place to display it.

So with the Diamond suites scheduled to open later this year, he got to thinking that this would be just the place to display the largest diamond in the world. He told a few people about his plans and the search began, ending when the pear-shaped stone was found and purchased in Russia.

"It is a spectacular-looking thing," he said.

Changes ahead for
Macau currency regs

The problems associated with Macau’s VIP rooms will fade to nothing once the Chinese yuan is allowed to float freely against other currencies.

This will presumably create an environment in which gamblers will be able to deal directly with casinos. It could happen around the time of next year’s summer Olympics in China.

That’s the view of a gaming regulator who spoke with the promise of anonymity. He said the issues spawned by the current operation of VIP rooms have provided a fertile ground for the "loan-sharking and money laundering problems" that are not easily uprooted.

Macau casinos are now allowed to issue credit but the restrictions concerning the movement of currency out of the mainland has resulted in a culture supported by a tapestry of dark forces that is not easily uprooted.