KEN RITTERLAS VEGAS (AP) ¿ The owner of an iconic downtown Las Vegas hotel that hosted the World Series of Poker for 34 years will close the property's hotel rooms, coffee shop and keno operations as a cost-cutting move, a spokeswoman said Monday. "It's the downturn," said Lisa Robinson, spokeswoman for TLC Casino Enterprises Inc., owner of the 58-year-old Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel. "We had to make some difficult decisions in order to keep the rest of the property operational." The casino facing downtown's Fremont Street Experience pedestrian mall will remain open, along with the poker room, sports book and the Binion's Ranch Steakhouse. All 99 rooms in Binion's hotel and 266 rooms in the property's former Mint tower will close Dec. 14, Robinson said. About 100 of Binion's 800 workers will be laid off. "This economy has severely affected our operations," Robinson said, citing decreasing occupancy and hotel room rates. "The hotel rooms were just not competitive." Binion's, also known as Binion's Horseshoe, opened in 1951 after colorful owner Benny Binion moved to Las Vegas from Texas and bought the Apache Hotel and Eldorado Club. Over the years, the casino became famous for its carpeting and velvet walls, no-limit wagering, a glass display of $1 million in cash, and for the World Series of Poker. Binion's son, Jack Binion, began hosting the tournament in 1970 with 38 invited players.
The champion, Johnny Moss, was elected by his competitors. He was awarded a silver cup. The aging hotel-casino ran into financial trouble after Benny Binion's daughter, Becky Behnen, acquired it in 1998. It closed in January 2004 after U.S. marshals seized cash from the casino to pay outstanding employee benefits. Casino giant Harrah's Entertainment Inc. bought the property, kept the Horseshoe and World Series of Poker brands, and sold the casino-hotel to MTR Gaming Group Inc. of Chester, W.Va. MTR reopened it in April 2004 as Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel. The World Series of Poker moved in 2005 to the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino near the Las Vegas Strip. The 2009 winner, Joe Cada, won $8.55 million for beating 6,493 opponents in a no-limit Texas Hold 'em tournament that cost $10,000 to enter. MTR Gaming sold the property to Las Vegas-based TLC in March 2008. TLC also owns the 694-room Four Queens hotel-casino downtown.