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Gaming Pioneer Eulogized as a Bear Outside, a Lamb Inside

December 29, 1989

LAS VEGAS (AP) _ About 800 people, including political leaders, gaming executives and weathered cowboys in 10-gallon hats, turned out for an emotional funeral service for Las Vegas casino pioneer Benny Binion.

″I never met anybody that met Benny Binion who didn’t like him in two minutes,″ close friend Steve Wynn said at Thursday’s service. ″I never met anybody that met Benny Binion that didn’t respect him in five minutes. He was the most extraordinary man I ever met.″

Binion, owner of Horseshoe Casino, died Christmas Day of a heart-related condition. He was 85.

A funeral procession stretched several blocks from the suburban Roman Catholic church Binion helped build to a cemetery where he was buried, just blocks from his downtown casino.

Wynn, chairman of the Mirage hotel on the Las Vegas Strip and the Golden Nugget across downtown’s Glitter Gulch from Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, nodded toward Binion’s casket, topped by the gambler’s trademark cowboy hat.

″We’re going to see a lot more cowboy hats and cowboy boots in this town. But I don″t think anybody is going to see the likes of Benny Binion again,″ he said.

The Rev. Bill Kenny of Christ the King Church praised Binion as a man who was ″like a grizzly bear outside but inside like a lamb.″

Binion’s death further thinned the ranks of the flamboyant old-time gamblers who built Las Vegas from a wide spot on a desert road to the nation’s gambling Mecca, only to see their casinos taken over in recent years by major corporations.

He was born in Grayson County, Texas, to a family that sold race horses on the county fair circuit, a connection that provided his entry into the gambling world. He started by running illegal craps games, usually out of hotel rooms.

Binion moved to Las Vegas in 1946 and bought the Horseshoe casino five years later, quickly building it into one of the city’s premiere attractions.

The Horseshoe Club, noted for its million-dollar craps table bets, its annual $10,000 buy-in World Series of Poker tournament and its $1 million collection of $10,000 bills, now occupies a city block.

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