Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2000 | 11:18 a.m.
A Friday night altercation at a popular restaurant has heated up a feud between Bob Stupak and the Behnen family, the owners of the Horseshoe Club.
It also has resulted in the colorful gambling figure's ban from the upscale establishment Piero's on Convention Center Drive just off the Strip.
"He's not welcome at Piero's anymore," owner Freddie Glusman told the Sun Monday night. "We don't want him there. We don't want anymore problems."
Stupak filed a police report late Friday alleging he was assaulted at his table by an entourage led by Benny Behnen, the 24-year-old son of Horseshoe Club owner Becky Behnen, whose late father, Benny Binion, founded the downtown casino.
Stupak, who has had extensive reconstructive facial surgery stemming from a near-fatal motorcycle accident several years ago, complained of pain in the left side of his face and told officers he wanted to press battery charges.
Becky Behnen acknowledged that her family has been at odds with Stupak the past two years since he tried to cash $250,000 in $5,000 chips at the Horseshoe that casino officials believe weren't won there.
Becky Behnen and Glusman said Benny was nowhere near the incident at the restaurant. He was having dinner in another room with her family and friends, she said.
Glusman's stepson, Charlie Skinner, who helped break up the altercation, also said the younger Behnen wasn't involved.
He said R.D. Mathews, an 80-year-old Behnen family friend who is blind in one eye, and one other man had engaged in a shouting match with Stupak at Stupak's booth in the main dining room of the restaurant.
"There was some pushing over the table and a lot of yelling and cursing, but nobody got hurt," Skinner said.
Skinner said he saw Mathews "take a swing" at Stupak but miss.
"He tried to pick up a chair, but I grabbed him at that point," Skinner said. "I never saw Stupak get hit."
Stupak declined to discuss the specifics of the disturbance this morning, but he said he was worried about the well-being of his son, Nevada, and his 23-year-old daughter, Summer, who were having dinner with him when the incident occurred.
"I'm more concerned about the safety of my children than I am about myself," Stupak said. "I'm worried about retaliation toward my son and daughter. They've all known each other since they were kids. Apparently, there's bad blood there."
The fight has attracted the attention of state gaming regulators because of Stupak's allegation that Benny Behnen was involved. Behnen is an unlicensed executive at the Horseshoe.
"We're conducting some preliminary inquiries," Keith Copher, chief of enforcement for the state Gaming Control Board, said.
Stupak, the vision behind the Stratosphere tower, alleged in the police report that he was held and repeatedly slapped in the face by Benny Behnen and his group. He told police that he believed the incident was a result of the $250,000 chip incident.
Horseshoe officials had refused to cash the chips in November 1998, saying they had no records that Stupak had won the chips there. The Control Board, however, later sided with Stupak and ordered the Horseshoe to redeem the chips.
"I thought this whole thing was finished, that it had been forgotten," Stupak said.
Becky Behnen said she believes Stupak had obtained the chips from Sandy Murphy, the girlfriend of her brother, Ted Binion, following his September 1998 death.
Murphy and her lover, Rick Tabish, were convicted in May of killing the former Horseshoe executive and stealing his valuables.
In April 1999 the Sun reported that Binion's estate had returned $3 million in casino chips to the Horseshoe. Binion had been storing the chips and $6 million in silver bars and coins at the casino until two months before his death, when he decided to transport the property to Pahrump. The silver was buried in an underground vault in Pahrump, and the chips were kept at his 125-acre ranch there.
Friday's police report said a witness told officers that she saw an older man grab Stupak by the arm while two other men slapped him.
Mathews, an ex-Marine and decorated World War II veteran, apparently said something to Stupak that prompted the fight, witnesses told the Sun.
"Nobody got excited at our table because the man was in his 80s," Becky Behnen said. "Everyone in the room was laughing, so it couldn't have been anything serious."
Becky Behnen said Stupak apparently doesn't live up to the "code of ethics" practiced by Matthews and that had angered the longtime family friend, who was close to her father.
Glusman said Stupak has earned a reputation at Piero's for treating employees there very poorly.
"They don't like him," Glusman said.
Piero's is a well-known hangout for the movers and shakers of Las Vegas. Politicians, sports figures, business leaders and even reputed underworld figures all are known to frequent the gourmet restaurant.
Becky Behnen said Stupak still has a grudge against her family because he has been banned from the Horseshoe since 1998 and can't play in the World Series of Poker.