Friday, March 24, 2023 | 9:15 p.m.
A name paired with poker and Las Vegas lore now has a place on the neon-lit Strip following the rebranding of an iconic hotel with a memorable history at a crossroads shared with some of the most recognizable casinos in the world.
The Horseshoe Las Vegas Hotel & Casino and its corporate owner, Caesars Entertainment Corp., hosted ceremonies Friday to mark the name change from Bally’s Las Vegas, before it again hosts the upcoming 54th annual World Series of Poker.
“Not only are we excited for guests to experience the redesigned resort and its latest offerings, but we are also proud to reintroduce the historic gaming brand to Las Vegas," Jason Gregorec, Horseshoe senior vice president and general manager, said in a statement.
The 2,800-room property once was the MGM Grand Hotel, where a historic fire in 1980 killed 87 people. It was Bally's Las Vegas for 36 years.
Renovations and renaming harken back to Binion’s Horseshoe, a hotel and gambling hall in downtown's “Glitter Gulch” where the World Series of Poker began.
It also puts the Horseshoe marquee across the street from the Bellagio and its fountains, Caesars Palace and its statues and the glittery Flamingo Las Vegas.
Jack Binion, 86, a former casino executive and member of the American Gaming Association and World Series of Poker halls of fame, was set to present a lucky horseshoe from his family’s ranch at an event also including “Jubilee!” costumes recalling the feathery Bally’s revue that ran for 35 years before closing in 2016.
The first World Series of Poker in 1970 was hosted by Binion’s father, former Texas gambler Benny Binion, as an invitation-only game at his downtown Horseshoe, a 366-room hotel he opened in 1951.
Jack Binion and his brother, Ted Binion, worked at the downtown property, now known as Binion’s Gambling Hall & Hotel and operated by the corporate owner of the neighboring Four Queens. Ted Binion's death in 1998 sparked a sensational murder trial and eventual acquittal in 2004 of his ex-stripper, live-in girlfriend and her secret lover.
Harrah's Entertainment acquired the poker tournament in 2004 and moved it to the Rio All-Suites Hotel & Casino. A year later, Harrah's bought Caesars Entertainment, which was purchased in 2020 by Eldorado Resorts, now called Caesars Entertainment Corp. Bally's hotel-casino was part of that deal. The renaming began last year.
The tournament that made championship bracelets and Texas Hold 'em famous now runs for more than seven weeks. It drew nearly 200,000 players last year to Bally's and the adjacent Paris Las Vegas and awarded almost $350 million in prizes. It is scheduled to start this year on May 30.
After it ends in July, officials said an 18-table poker room will offer tournament-style play year-round.
The 26-story hotel now named Horseshoe opened in late 1973 as the MGM Grand. It had 2,100 rooms and was one of the largest hotels in the world.
The deadly fire seven years later was one of the worst in U.S. history. It led to laws requiring fire safety and sprinkler systems in hotels and high-rises. The hotel was rebuilt and a second tower, adding 700 rooms, was completed in 1981.
Bally Manufacturing bought the property in 1986. MGM Grand Inc. moved a block down the Strip and opened the movie-themed MGM Grand Las Vegas resort in late 1993. That 30-floor property, with more than 5,000 rooms and emerald green exterior, opened as the largest hotel complex in the world.
The Bally's name is still expected to remain on the Las Vegas Strip at the aging, nearly 1,500-room Tropicana resort, now owned by Rhode Island-based Bally’s Corp.