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Gaming Guru

Rod Smith
 

Binion Deal Clears Final Hurdles

11 March 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Two months after the problem-plagued Binion's Horseshoe was closed in a cash-cage raid by deputy U.S. marshals, Harrah's Entertainment and MTR Gaming Group's also-troubled plan to take over the property cleared its final known hurdles Wednesday.

The last obstacle to closing the three-way deal disappeared when Clark County District Judge Michael Douglas set aside his own order from Tuesday and confirmed the sale of the so-called Parry parcel for $1.8 million to Chester, W.Va.-based MTR subsidiary Speakeasy Gaming of Fremont, which will do business as Binion's Horseshoe.

Speakeasy Chief Executive Officer Roger Szepelak said Wednesday's action should clear the way to close the deal today.

"We expect the deal to close tomorrow. We're glad to get this part (of taking over the Horseshoe) behind us, get the people back to work and get the property reopened," he said Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday, Douglas threw out the results of an auction conducted Friday by probate Commissioner Don Ashworth that awarded a 65.5 percent interest in one of the separate parcels on which the Horseshoe sits to former state Sen. Bill O'Donnell for $1.184 million.

Attorneys for Harrah's, which is buying the World Series of Poker and rights to the Horseshoe name in Nevada, on Wednesday confirmed in court that an agreement in principle had been reached between Horseshoe owner Becky Binion Behnen, O'Donnell, Speakeasy and Harrah's that led O'Donnell to withdraw his bid for the parcel.

"I purchased the piece of property (Friday) and I purchased it with a lease and an income stream. That was what I was interested in. The arrangement we made is OK with me," O'Donnell said.

The parcel had been under a 30-year lease that started in 1997 and yielded an annual rent of $155,000, but the terms of the arrangement with O'Donnell are sealed and the parties declined to discuss specifics.

"I think we have worked out an arrangement that is mutually beneficial. I am first and foremost pleased that 900 people will go back to work," O'Donnell said.

"The four parties involved -- Behnen, MTR Group, Bill O'Donnell and Harrah's -- came together to resolve this situation quickly and amicably with the goal of getting this property reopened and the employees back to work as soon as possible. It's still our plan to reopen on or about April 1," Harrah's spokesman David Strow said.

Another land title dispute had involved a so-called Isola parcel, two pieces of land, both half-owned by the Isola family and half-owned by the Horseshoe. That was resolved Tuesday when the parties agreed that title to one piece of the parcel would be retained 100 percent by the Isola family and the other would be conveyed to Speakeasy, Szepelak said.

Meanwhile, Harrah's conducted the first interviews Wednesday for rehiring former Horseshoe workers who were laid off when the property was closed Jan. 9.

Harrah's on Saturday sent letters to more than 900 employees who were working when the property closed.

Strow said the company did not know how many workers showed up for the interviews.

Workers wishing to schedule interviews should call 382-1600, ext. 7329.

Culinary Local 226 chief D. Taylor pointed out that although the notices for interviews had been sent to all former workers, union members would be called back to work when the property reopens and will not have to schedule interviews.

"We're just excited that the place will be reopened April 1 as was announced. That will be good for workers, downtown, the company and the industry," he said. "Obviously, in any sort of deal like this, there are some twists and turns, but we're confident at the end of the day the place will be reopened, our folks will be back at work and customers will be walking in there."

Binion Deal Clears Final Hurdles is republished from Online.CasinoCity.com.