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Benjamin Spillman

Deal puts Binion's in local hands

11 March 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel is back under local ownership after the close of a deal that netted more than $28 million for the Fremont Street property's former owners.

On Monday, TLC Casino Enterprises, a company run by Four Queens owner Terry Caudill, announced it had closed a deal to buy Binion's from MTR Gaming Group of Chester, W.Va.

The deal has been in the works since at least June when MTR Gaming announced Caudill had agreed to pay $32 million for the casino, one of the most recognized properties on Fremont Street.

The closing means Caudill now controls Binion's and can begin working on plans to upgrade the property with new slot machines and renovations to the hotel rooms.

In a statement, Caudill said he will emphasize the history of the 57-year-old hotel-casino founded by maverick gambler Benny Binion as the Horseshoe Club.

"As we begin to re-establish the brand, the legacy aspect will come into play, and we also want to reaffirm that Binion's is current and relevant in today's Las Vegas," Caudill said.

Caudill said he would begin work on Binion's "right off the bat."

For the time being, Caudill said the approximately 900 workers at Binion's will keep their jobs. But he will review each department in an effort to make the property more efficient.

Caudill also announced Tim Lager will replace Will Robinson as general manager. He said Robinson chose to remain with MTR Gaming.

Lager was director of operations for Magoo's Gaming Group, a chain of taverns Caudill owns.

Immediate plans for Binion's include completing the conversion from coin- to ticket-operated slot machines, improving customer flow, upgrading hotel rooms and remodeling public areas of the casino.

"There are some things we can do quickly, like changing the configuration and location of table game pits that will raise the energy level and make Binion's more inviting to the foot traffic on Fremont Street," Caudill said.

The Binion's purchase is Caudill's first major Fremont Street deal since 2003 when he bought the Four Queens. He has said that hotel remodeling and other upgrades at that property boosted cash flow by more than 100 percent.

At Binion's, he'll be facing what might be an even tougher reclamation project.

Since 2004 when regulators swooped in and closed the casino to ensure former owner Becky Binion Behnen could pay mounting debts, the casino has changed hands three times, including Caudill's purchase.

Harrah's owned the property just long enough to strip it of the Horseshoe name and the popular World Series of Poker brand. It then sold to MTR Gaming, which reported millions of dollars in losses during its tenure.