World Series of Poker to remain at Horseshoe

The World Series of Poker will be played downtown in 2005 after Harrah’s Entertainment Inc. agreed to keep the world’s top poker tournament at Binion’s Horseshoe for at least one extra year beyond this year’s event.

That decision by Harrah’s convinced Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and the City Council to approve an ownership and liquor license transfer this morning.

The hearing that considered the transfer of the Binion’s Horseshoe gaming and liquor licenses began Wednesday during the regular council meeting, but Goodman called for a recess until this morning after he was told that the Horseshoe name and the internationally known poker tournament would be taken from the downtown property.

„That’s a hill to die for,“ he said Wednesday, and repeated Thursday.

With very little discussion today, he quickly made a motion to approve the ownership and liquor license transfer, which is contingent upon background reviews, from former majority owner Becky Behnen to West Virginia’s MTR Gaming Group. MTR will own the property but Harrah’s will operate it for at least one year, with options to extend for another two.

In making his motion, Goodman praised Tom Jenkin, western division president of gaming giant Harrah’s, which will operate the casino for at least one year, with options to extend the deal for another two years. The deal also gives Harrah’s the rights to the „Horseshoe“ and „World Series of Poker“ brand names, while MTR keeps the name „Binion’s.“

„To say he (Jenkin) has been a gentleman would be an understatement,“ said Goodman of the discussions leading up to the agreement, which keeps the final two rounds of the televised poker tournament downtown in 2005.

Jenkin said his company believed in downtown Las Vegas, „although we won’t be operating there long term.“

Councilman Lawrence Weekly, who represents the portion of downtown that includes Binion’s, also participated in the discussions leading up to the agreement, which he noted today will put the 900 casino employees back to work within weeks.

Jenkin said that letters will be sent „to all former Horseshoe employees asking them to come back,“ with the exception of 15 to 18 senior managers.

The vote was 5-0 to approve the transfer. Councilman Michael Mack previously had abstained on the vote because his brother-in-law has an interest in the Lady Luck Casino. Councilwoman Lynette Boggs McDonald, a director of Station Casinos, was not present this morning.

State gaming regulators approved the 50 million USD sale of Binion’s Horseshoe Wednesday afternoon, which allows an April 1 reopening.

The actual sale was to take place today after a few last-minute details were ironed out, including agreements with the final two holdouts of the seven property owners who own the land under the Horseshoe and have a right to block the transfer of the lease from Behnen to the new owners.

After the brief council meeting, Goodman said the end result was good for everybody.

„Once they (Harrah’s) understood how important it was to the city they stepped up to the plate,“ Goodman said.