MTR Gaming Group to take reins of Binion's Horseshoe casino in Las
reported by Las
Vegas Review-JournalKnight Ridder/Tribune Business News
- For more than five decades, the Horseshoe name has been synonymous
with high-stakes action in downtown Las Vegas.
before the city celebrates its 100th birthday, what's arguably its
most-recognized gambling hall will take on a new moniker -- and
new management team -- following a tumultuous 2004.
Owner MTR Gaming
Group said Monday it will assume control of the downtown hotel-casino
effective March 11, less than 10 weeks before Las Vegas' May 15
centennial. At that time, Binion's
Horseshoe will also adopt a shortened name: Binion's.
name will come down," said Roger Szepelak, vice president and
chief operating officer for MTR Gaming Group, whose company sold
the rights to the Horseshoe name earlier this year to Harrah's Entertainment.
Per that agreement,
Harrah's will also end the World Series of Poker's ties to its longtime
home after next year's finals are held at Binion's. Its departure
won't be the end of poker at Binion's, however.
plan on keeping poker and making it a big part of our marketing
program," Szepelak said, adding another poker championship
is in the works. "This won't be called the World Series of
Poker, but we certainly hope" it develops a similar following,
That idea is
a likely winner for MTR and downtown Las Vegas, Barrick Gaming President
and Chief Executive Officer Stephen Crystal said Monday.
has been said about the World Series of Poker leaving downtown,
but ... the truth is the magic is not in the name, it's in the location,"
said Crystal, whose company recently acquired several downtown hotel-casinos
including the Plaza, Las Vegas Club and Gold Spike. "That is
a famous location on Fremont Street, and that's what will live on
regardless of the Horseshoe name."
hands-on ownership is better for downtown than third-party management
by a company whose attention is focused elsewhere.
was just a place-holder and wasn't really going to invest a lot
of energy in downtown," Crystal said. "But we know for
certain MTR will join the other new owners like Barrick and (the
Golden Nugget's) Tim Poster and Tom Breitling in bringing new energy."
The first improvements
planned for Binion's will likely be upgraded slots, Szepelak said,
adding it's too soon to speculate on other changes.
MTR owns thoroughbred
and harness horse tracks in West Virginia and Ohio, respectively,
and hopes to expand with similar holdings in Michigan, Minnesota
and Pennsylvania. Despite those ties to racing, Szepelak said the
company won't decide to reopen Binion's race and sports book until
Harrah's has departed.
under then-owner Becky Binion Behnen caused the iconic downtown
hotel-casino to close on Jan. 9. Less than two weeks later, Harrah's
said it would buy the property from Behnen for an undisclosed amount.
plans were short-lived, however. On Feb. 19, it announced a deal
to sell Binion's Horseshoe
to MTR's wholly owned subsidiary, Speakeasy Gaming of Fremont. Financial
terms were not disclosed, but Harrah's kept ownership of the Horseshoe
brand in Nevada, and the popular World Series of Poker event. It
also agreed to manage the downtown casino for MTR for at least one
contract, which expires March 11, called for Harrah's to pay MTR
management fees of $200,000 per month during its initial year, with
Harrah's keeping any revenue in excess of that amount.
those fees would have increased to $400,000 per month in the second
year and $450,000 in year three, Szepelak said.
Horseshoe reopened April 1 and has since returned to profitability.
Excluding World Series-related fees and revenue, and management
fees paid to MTR, the property generated $34 million in revenue
and $1.8 million in cash flow from April through September, MTR
to exit was influenced by its pending $9.4 billion acquisition of
Caesars Entertainment, a deal expected to close next year pending
going to need all of the management talent we have," Harrah's
spokesman Gary Thompson said Monday of the Caesars merger.
A dozen or so
management-level employees based at Binion's
Horseshoe will transfer within the company before the MTR deal
expires, Thompson added. The rest of the property's 980 or so employees
are employed by MTR and will not be affected by the changes.