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Is Binion’s the Next Vegas Demolition?
As we’ve watched the Las Vegas club get slowly reduced to rubble to make way for a new resort on Fremont Street it’s only natural to question what Las Vegas property will be imploded, demolished or slowly dismantled next. As heartbreaking as it would be, I think it could be Binion’s.
Benny Binion established Binion’s Horseshoe in 1951 and was a true innovator in the casino space. Binion’s was known in the early days for high gaming limits and the property was the first to install carpet on the casino floor and offer comps to all players, not just big spenders.
The property expanded its footprint over the years by purchasing the neighboring Boulder Club in 1960 and then the Mint in 1988 and was the birthplace of the World Series of Poker. The property is still sought out for its great low limit gaming, Top of Binion’s Steakhouse, million dollar display and iconic neon blue exterior.
Like any historic and iconic property, it kills you to think that Binion’s could be a candidate for closure, an overhaul or demolition but reality and facts are tough to argue.
Binion’s is currently owned by TLC Casino Enterprises, a private company that also owns Binion’s sister property 4 Queens. Since TLC is private, they don’t report their earnings to the general public so we don’t have much visibility into the recent financial performance of the property.
Luckily, prior to TLC’s purchase of Binion’s, the property was owned by MTR Gaming Group which was public and can help shed some light on Binion’s finances. MTR only owned the casino from 2005 until early 2008 but we are able to glean from MTR’s 2007 annual report that Binion’s suffered an operating loss of $5.4 Million in 2006 and a loss of $7.3 million in 2007 prior to being sold to TLC for $32 million dollars in deal that closed in 2008.
What makes the operating losses in 2006 and 2007 even more troubling is that those two years featured the highest reported gaming revenue Clark County has EVER seen between 1970 – Present. Binion’s wasn’t even turning a profit during the best of times. Not a great sign.
TLC knew when they bought the resort that the hotel was a “fixer upper”, however, plans for renovations were shelved when the economy careened into the great recession and the hotel closed indefinitely in 2009. While the US economy has recovered since the closure, Binion’s hotel is still standing vacant. Its only uses now are the rooftop pool which is used by 4 Queens guests and the steakhouse on the 24th floor. The former hotel lobby is now a cheap apparel shop. If you are looking for a button down shirt with flames and dice on it, this is your kind of shopping experience.
Adding to the cost and complexity of renovating the hotel which was built in 1965 is the presence of asbestos which is no small (or cheap) task to safely remove. There are no current plans to renovate or re-open the hotel tower at Binion’s.
If Binion’s wasn’t profitable prior to the closure of their hotel tower in 2009, it’s hard to believe performance is much better without the 365 rooms in operation.
Binion’s is a powerful brand that can and likely will live on. The problem is that the brand is trapped in a tired, asbestos laden structure that won’t be able to financially take advantage of all the positive changes and visitor trends on Fremont street.
In my opinion, Binion’s will be the next Fremont Street property to implode.