Big time gambling began in Las Vegas with the opening of Binion's Horseshoe casino in 1951. As Becky Binion Behnen would recall of her father Benny, "He loved poker players and high stakes action - in his 85 years he never encountered a bet too large to cover."
Benny Binion arrived in Las Vegas from Texas in 1946 in the same month that Bugsy Siegel opened the Flamingo Hotel and Casino. He became a partner in another casino, the Las Vegas Club, the next year, but left after disagreements over the stakes the club would allow gamblers to bet. Benny Binion believed that gamers should not be limited in the amount they were willing to wager; if they were willing to put it to chance, the house should cover it. He opened the Horseshoe four years later and changed the face of gambling forever.
The storied history of the Binions have been chronicled in various books, television shows, and news publications around the world. Their contributions to Nevada include:
- The World Series of Poker. This annual event gathers the world's greatest poker players (and anyone else over the age of 21 who wants to compete) vying for a chance to win over one million dollars. This event is broadcast internationally on ESPN as people tune in for the drama of this intense, high-stakes event.
- The National Finals Rodeo. This championship was moved from Oklahoma City in 1985 and has a prize package worth over $4.6 million today. The event annually draws over 170,000 spectators to the Thomas and Mack Center where fans can watch cowboys compete in several events including bullriding, calf roping, and steer wrestling.
- The Binion's Horseshoe Casino. This is one of the oldest casinos in Las Vegas and the first to raise the limits that gamblers could wager - it never encountered a bet too large to cover. And even though high rollers flocked to Horseshoe, it was also one of the first places to comp small-time gamblers.
Given these and other accomplishments, it is hard to imagine what Las Vegas might resemble today if Benny Binion had never moved his family from Texas to Nevada in the 1940s.