Harrah’s: Let’s Make a Deal!

Jan 13, 2004 7:30 AM

HARRAH’S TO BUY THE HORSESHOE? Harrah’s intensified its efforts to buy Binion’s Horseshoe in Las Vegas on Monday, just three days after the casino’s closure last week. Harrah’s was already negotiating to purchase the Binion’s name in Nevada (to go along with its purchase of Jack Binion’s riverboat casinos in Mississippi).

But at press time, there was no word from insiders whether a deal would be struck. Regulators closed the casino and seized about $1 million in cash in order to satisfy past due payments to the Culinary Union on Friday.

Binion’s owner Becky Binion Behnen agreed to keep the casino closed until she could raise the cash reserves needed to operate, or until she could find a buyer.

Keith Kizer, a high-ranking official with the Nevada Attorney General’s office, said the action by regulators and federal marshals was warranted.

"When you have no money, you can’t have any machines," he said. "If something hit, they couldn’t pay."

Kizer said he wasn’t sure how the annual World Series of Poker would be affected.

"That’s a good question. Poker is separate because it involves customer betting so there is no casino money on it."

One downtown denizen speculated that perhaps the new boys running the Golden Nugget would be interested.

"That would be quite a welcome wagon gift — the world famous World Series of Poker," our source said.

In any case, Kizer said Binion’s could re-open at any time, provided the money is there.

"The Gaming Control Board would verify there was enough money to cover the games and then they could re-open. They could still try to sell it or get a loan."


G2E TO SERVE UP F&B PAVILION: Food and beverage (F&B) has always been key to the casino industry, and this year it gets the attention it deserves at the annual G2E conference.

"You can no longer have a meaningful discussion about gaming without including the food and beverage component," said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association. "The addition of F&B at G2E will give attendees unprecedented access to the new products and ideas that will move their casinos and resorts into the forefront in this area."

It’s about time. On the Las Vegas Strip, the industry’s bellwether, spending on F&B has grown faster than gaming revenue, up 145 percent since 1992.

Moreover, surveys by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority show the average trip expenditure for food and drink has risen 102 percent during the last decade. In addition, the Nevada Gaming Control Board reports that non-gaming revenue accounts for 57 percent of total revenue today compared to 43 percent 10 years ago.

Starting this year, F&B at G2E will be a unique event and will feature products ranging from gourmet food and beverage and food service equipment and supplies, to technology, decor and other items essential to the delivery of an outstanding culinary experience.

I just hope they have some nice ravioli and spicy hot peppers.


WHERE ART THOU, DON KING? "Don’t expect Don King to relocate to Las Vegas any time soon," said an East Coast pipe, who added, "You know, he certainly has been reading the papers about his arch-enemy Bob Arum having his office invaded by federal investigators.

"King is even hiding from probers in New Jersey who want him to answer some questions relative to his business dealings with Bob Lee, the former chairman of the International Boxing Federation."

Lee was convicted of racketeering. And when King tried to get his New Jersey boxing promoter’s license renewed, investigators thought it would be a good time to query King about his relationship to Lee. But King withdrew his license request and that issue is now in limbo, the pipe reported.


JUST GIVE US THE LICENSE: That seems to be the attitude of the top dogs at Caesars Entertainment Corp. They have told the gaming authorities in Illinois that when it comes time to bid on the state’s controversial 10th gaming license, they hope to be the winner.

The license should become available soon if the state’s A.G. is successful in going forward with a negotiated deal with the family that owns the license.

Caesars hasn’t said what it will pay for the license but some Illinois people have suggested it could bring $370 million. This, despite the fact, that Illinois has the highest gaming tax rate in the country with a top out of 75%.

NOTHING LIKE TOKES AT CHRISTMAS: It may have been Las Vegas’ slow period during the month of December, but tipping remained relatively strong for the period, according to numbers reported in The Dealer’s News newsletter.

Strong play at MGM Grand provided dealers an average of $183 per shift during one reviewed week prior to the holiday. Tokes were nearly as good at Mandalay Bay but a bit lighter at the Aladdin where the shift take was $135.

But the unexpected news report came from the Rincon Indian Casino near San Diego that is operated by Harrah’s Entertainment Corp. According to a recent survey, the tokes "per hour" averaged $26.


NOTHING STAYS THE SAME: Two decades ago, before the revitalization of Las Vegas, gamblers from around the country visited the city to check the action at their favorite casinos. At that time the leaders were Caesars Palace, Sands, the Desert Inn, the Hilton, and the Dunes.

Here it is 2004 and Caesars Palace has a new owner; the Sands was demolished to make room for The Venetian, the Desert Inn will soon become Wynn Las Vegas, the Hilton is being sold and the Dunes stood on the site of the Bellagio.

Add 20 years and wonder what it will all look like in 2024.