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Gaming Guru

Jeff Simpson
 

Binion Elated About Sale

12 September 2003

LAS VEGAS -- Lucky and proud.

That's how Jack Binion said he felt Thursday after he and Harrah's Entertainment executives signed a $1.45 billion deal for Harrah's to buy his Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp. and its three riverboat casinos.

Binion started the company in July 1994, and in less than a decade built a company Harrah's was willing to pay almost one-and-a-half billion dollars for. The deal carries the biggest price for the sale of a privately held casino company and also would mark the third-biggest casino company sale ever.

Horseshoe's riverboats in Hammond, Ind.; Tunica, Miss.; and Bossier City, La., are the top-performing casinos in their markets. Harrah's plans to keep all three properties and operate them under the Horseshoe brand. Existing Harrah's-branded or owned casinos could also be switched to the powerful Horseshoe brand, Harrah's executives said Thursday.

"Credit goes to the Horseshoe team," Binion said of the company's incredible growth and its big sticker price. "I've got a lot of talented people. My one real talent is recognizing talent."

Horseshoe President Roger Wagner said the sale price reflects the company's quality.

"Normally when you buy a company with multiple properties you gotta take a dog or two," Wagner said. "We don't have any dogs."

Binion, 66, said he plans to work hard over the next few months making sure the ownership transfer goes smoothly, but eventually he plans to spend more time at his home in northwestern Las Vegas. Harrah's bosses said they hope to call on Binion's expertise after the sale takes effect as well.

"We want to make this the smoothest transition ever," Binion said, adding that he has yet to clarify what Harrah's plans for his role as an unofficial Horseshoe-brand ambassador.

Binion said he was surprised at the speed of the sales process, noting that he wouldn't have paid to move his corporate headquarters to Las Vegas a few months ago if he'd known a sale was likely.

Harrah's will inherit Horseshoe's Summerlin offices, he said.

Most of his company's 7,800 workers will keep their jobs, but some top managers will likely be out of work after the sale takes effect, he said.

"There's a great management team," Binion said of his top staff, promising to work hard to help find new jobs for any executives who lose theirs in the takeover.

Wagner is one of the executives who'll likely be looking for work once the sale is complete.

He said he and other top Horseshoe brass are kicking around the idea of forming their own casino management company.

"We learned from the best, and I think we'd have a lot to offer," he said.