Jack Binion ready to rejoin the race

Jul 15, 2008 7:02 PM

Gaming Insider by Phil Hevener | Jack Binion’s non-compete agreement with Harrah’s has expired, freeing the former chairman of Horseshoe Gaming to look wherever he might like for a casino venture.

Does the 71-year-old billionaire gaming veteran who turned the Fremont Street Horseshoe into a legend want to stay active?

He is not tipping his hand, saying only that, yes, he now has the freedom to consider deals wherever he might find them.

"Let’s just leave it at that for the time being," he told GamingToday.

But does he see some bargains out there?

Binion answered the question with one of his own. "Have you seen the way some of these gaming stocks are getting beat up? … My goodness."

The implication is that there are some bargains out there across the landscape of the gaming business.

Binion announced a September 2003 agreement to sell his Horseshoe Gaming to Harrah’s for $917 million in cash and the assumption of $533 million in debt. The deal closed the following summer, which started the clock running on the non-compete limitations.

Binion could have bought or built something along the Las Vegas Strip during the last four years but there was a billion-dollar cap on what he could do.

As followers of the gaming industry know, a billion dollars does not go as far as it used to. The non-compete agreement prohibited Binion from going into business within so many miles of other Harrah’s casinos elsewhere.

Not that Binion spent all this time sitting on his hands. About two years ago Steve Wynn persuaded Binion to run Wynn’s Macau operation. His stay there was measured in months and Binion would later explain, "I suppose I spent too many years being my own boss to work for someone else."

Binion says he is not involved in the efforts by other members of the Binion family, who are in hot pursuit of a license to run one of four state-owned casinos in Kansas.

Wynn taps Internet
poster boys

The decision by former Golden Nugget owners Tim Poster and Tom Breitling to join Steve Wynn’s staff as senior vice presidents of strategy and development raises some questions.

What exactly is a senior vice president of strategy and development in the Wynn organization, considering that most of the most important ideas and initiatives seem to flow from Wynn himself?

The question might be answered in part by the fact Tim and Tom were visiting the Las Vegas Hilton, acting very much like prospective buyers no more than five or six weeks before the July 2 announcement of their agreement to join Wynn.

It’s difficult to believe Poster and Breitling would have much interest in going to work for anyone as a vice president of anything … even as a senior vice president.

The former owners of the Golden Nugget casinos do not need a job. They may be looking for a Big Deal, but they do not need jobs. In September 2005 they sold the Golden Nugget on Fremont Street to Landry’s Restaurants for about $140 million in cash. Months earlier they had sold the Golden Nugget in Laughlin for $31 million.

The young entrepreneurs had done all right for themselves in the year and a half that they had the two Nuggets. So what are they bringing to Wynn’s table?

The Wynn press release made mention of the "entrepreneurial drive" they exhibited in accomplishing what they did at the Nuggets and in the Internet travel business before that.

So let’s put this down for a moment and go to the fact that various unrelated sources say Colony Capital has made no secret of its willingness to get an offer it can’t refuse for the LVH.

Do you suppose any of this was discussed as Poster and Breitling were discussing their employment agreements with Wynn?

Two unconnected sources agree that Colony Capital wants something on the order of $1.2 billion for the Hilton complex that sits on about 60 acres next to the sprawling Las Vegas Convention Center.

Wynn has already said he wants to step up his presence in the convention business. It’s all part of keeping the pressure on his neighbor Sheldon Adelson and involves a big development project on the Wynn golf course.

Knowing that much, it is easy to imagine Wynn wanting to wrap his thinking around the Center and the Las Vegas Hilton.

Tim and Tom playing a role in a venture of this size is easier to imagine than the two of them going to work for Wynn because they want to join his list of vice presidents.