Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Ted Binion

Teddy Binion

Lonnie "Ted" Binion
Lonnie "Ted" Binion (AP)

On Thursday, September 17, 1998, a thick, grayish brown cloud of smog and dust ringed the far-reaching boundaries of Clark County, Nevada, and the Las Vegas Valley, just as it did on most days in recent history, and the temperature was still in the scorching low one-hundreds.  Gone were the days of clear dark blue skies, now only faded memories to the few life-long native Las Vegans that remain here but an accepted fact of life to the hundreds of thousands of new transplants that have settled here in their quest for a better life.  Some call it progress.  Those who know what it used to be like here call it a shame.  Although he was not a native Las Vegan, Lonnie Ted Binion grew up here in the desert dust and was one of those who knew what Las Vegas used to be like.

Benny Binion
Benny Binion

Ted Binion, a slightly built man, lived in the fast lane, in many respects much like his infamous father, Lester Benny Binion, and possessed some of the same bravado.  Binion was also a cowboy in many respects.  He loved horses, and had been an accomplished horseman even before he turned ten years old.  But unlike his father, who lived to the ripe old age of eighty-five and passed away of natural causes, Ted lacked much of Bennys insight and common sense and couldnt see trouble coming when it was only around the corner.

He was smart, though, in other ways.  He loved history, and was a whiz at math with an uncanny ability to analyze gambling odds and come up with the house take in seconds, all without the use of a calculator or even a pencil.  He also loved to schmooze with the patrons at the Horseshoe, and could be seen on any given day sitting at the bar trying to put the make on women whose husbands were gambling away the family fortune.  Ted had a knack for always being able to find trouble, and he took one of lifes routes that led him down the highway to hell. 

Despite his tremendous wealth and a sense of fairness toward those he liked and was known to help others who were less fortunate than him, Ted had difficulty in helping himself and eventually became his own worst enemy.  Although he performed his job well, there were many occasions when he would be above the casino floor utilizing the eye in the sky to keep watch on the gaming action and the casino dealers, smoking pot.  The dealers always knew when he was there because of the pungent, telltale odor of the marijuana smoke.  But his lifestyle had a price.  By the time of his untimely death, Ted looked older than his fifty-five years, and his teeth had become stained an ugly brown from the years of smoking tar, heroin and marijuana.  Despite his shortcomings, Ted Binion managed to achieve phenomenal success in the casino business and became tremendously wealthy along with his siblings.

However, the phenomenal success story of the Horseshoe and the Binion family was not always a happy one.  It was often marred with a dark side of legal complications, family squabbling, and personal tragedy.

Barbara, the youngest daughter, failed at an attempt at suicide in which she shot herself and was left with a badly disfigured face.  She would die later of a drug overdose.  A dramatic kidnapping attempt against young Ted Binion would be thwarted, leaving in its wake bodies lying in the desert.  An older Ted Binion would begin to run afoul of the law as early as 1986 over his own drug problems and be arrested for heroin trafficking, and his known associations with underworld mobsters would ultimately cost him his gaming license and force him to sell his share of the Horseshoe to his sister, Becky.

The Horseshoe Casino
The Horseshoe Casino (Gary C. King)

Teds brother, Jack, would also sell to Becky after a prolonged series of disagreements amid Beckys accusations that he and Ted were mismanaging Horseshoe capital with Jack allegedly diverting money to finance his Louisiana and Mississippi gambling operations that were not directly affiliated with the Horseshoe.  In a lawsuit filed against her brothers, Becky also alleged that Jack had been stealing players by luring them away from the Horseshoe so that he could fill the tables at his other franchises.  Ted, in the meantime, would meet a bleached-blonde dancer at a cheesy topless nightclub and would move her into his home after his wife, Doris, and daughter, Bonnie, moved out. 

Ted, distrustful of his sister and fearful that he might lose the millions in silver that he had stored in the Horseshoes vault, would befriend a young man he met at a urinal inside the mens room at Pieros Restaurant and would hire him to remove the silver from the Horseshoes vault and transport it to the garage at his home on Palomino Lane. Then, months later, that same young man would be hired to build Ted a new vault near his ranch in Pahrump, Nevada, a one-horse town located about sixty miles southwest of Las Vegas near the California border.  And to top it all off, Ted would get murdered in the process.  His lifestyle led to a number of decisions that would first cost him his status in the gaming community as a casino giant and then, ultimately, would cost him his life.

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