WASHINGTON—A second-generation casino pioneer, a comedic legend whose performances have been entertaining casino-showroom audiences for more than 45 years, and a noted Las Vegas casino executive and developer will be inducted this year into the Gaming Hall of Fame.
Jack Binion, chairman and CEO of Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp.; comedian Don Rickles; and former MGM Grand Hotel and Casino Chairman and CEO Fred Benninger will be honored for their achievements June 11 at the 16th annual Gaming Hall Fame Charity Dinner and Induction Ceremony. The event, which benefits the National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), will be held at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nev.
“The individuals being inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame this year have made a lasting mark on gaming,” said Frank J. Fahrenkopf, Jr., president and CEO of the American Gaming Association, who will serve as honorary co-chairman of the dinner along with Boyd Gaming Corporation President Don Snyder. “Each has helped shape this industry in a unique way during the past half-century, and this honor is a tribute to those contributions.”
For nearly 50 years, the innovations and style of Jack Binion have helped establish him as a leader in the gaming industry. Binion has always recognized the importance of giving his guests a top gambling experience along with personalized customer service. He is committed to being visible and available to his customers, and his hands-on management style has endeared him to both customers and employees.
Inheriting the Horseshoe legacy from his father, Benny Binion – a 1990 Gaming Hall of Fame inductee – the younger Binion developed the Horseshoe Casino into a Las Vegas icon. The Horseshoe earned a reputation as a quintessential gambling “joint,” and Binion cemented that image in 1970 when Horseshoe hosted The World Series of Poker, the first-ever gambling tournament.
In 1994, Binion established the privately held Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp. and opened the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, La. One year later, the second Horseshoe Casino opened in Tunica, Miss., and both casinos soon led their markets in gaming revenue. In 1999, Horseshoe Gaming purchased the Empress Casinos in Joliet, Ill., and Hammond, Ind., and Binion quickly sparked double-digit revenue increases at those properties. In 2001, Binion sold the Empress Casino in Joliet and converted the Empress in Hammond into his third Horseshoe property, which became his third market leader. In September 2003, less than 10 years after starting the company, Binion entered into a contract to sell Horseshoe Gaming Holding Corp. and its properties to Harrah’s Entertainment, Inc., for $1.45 billion. Once finalized, it would be one of the largest casino transactions ever.
A legendary entertainer, Don Rickles is renowned for his improvisational, insult-style of humor. He has appeared in showrooms in Atlantic City, N.J.; Las Vegas; and Reno, Nev., as well as in concert halls throughout the United States and around the world.
Rickles got his big break in 1965 during his first performance on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.” As a guest on “The Dean Martin Show” during the late 1960s, he became famous for targeting his insulting humor at celebrity audience members. His first Las Vegas appearance was in 1959, and he has headlined there every year since. A graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Rickles has been highly visible on television and in movies. His big-screen appearances include Casino; Toy Story; Toy Story 2; Kelly’s Heroes; Run Silent, Run Deep; and Rat Race. He starred in prime-time series for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox, and during the 1970s and 1980s he hosted or co-hosted seven television specials. Rickles also has starred in live stage productions and has two best-selling comedy albums. He has parlayed his career in entertainment to support numerous charitable causes as well.
Fred Benninger, who is being inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame posthumously, is best known for developing the current MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, but his distinguished career included a multitude of accomplishments in gaming as well as the entertainment and airline industries.
Benninger’s involvement in gaming began in 1967, when he served as president of International Leisure Company. During his time there, he built the International Hotel – now the Las Vegas Hilton – and oversaw the renovation of the Flamingo Hotel Las Vegas. In 1971, Benninger accepted the position of chairman of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studios and served in that role for nearly a decade. During that period, he developed and built the original MGM Grand Hotel – now Bally’s Las Vegas – and served as the hotel’s chairman and CEO from 1971 until 1982. He also built the former MGM Grand Hotel in Reno, Nev. – now the Reno Hilton. Benninger became chairman and CEO of MGM Grand, Inc., in 1986 and remained in that position until 1991, when he left to serve on the executive committee of the company’s board of directors. In addition to his gaming career, Benninger was executive vice president and general manager of Flying Tiger Lines for 21 years and served as chairman of Western Airlines from 1972 until 1978 and president of Tracinda Corporation from 1982 until 1987.
Approximately 800 people are expected to attend the Gaming Hall of Fame Charity Dinner and Induction Ceremony, which is returning to Las Vegas after a year in Atlantic City, N.J. The event, hosted by Station Casinos, Inc., will include a gourmet dinner prepared by a team of chefs from the Green Valley Ranch Resort.
Induction into the Gaming Hall of Fame is the highest honor accorded by the gaming-entertainment industry. Each year, two or more individuals who have distinguished themselves through significant contributions to the industry receive this honor. More than 50 people have been inducted into the Gaming Hall of Fame since its inception in 1989.
The American Gaming Association (AGA) is the national trade association for the commercial casino industry. In addition to representing the interests of its members on federal legislative and regulatory issues, the AGA serves as a clearinghouse for information, develops educational and advocacy programs, and provides leadership on industry-related issues of public concern.
The National Center for Responsible Gaming (NCRG), the only national organization devoted exclusively to public education about and funding of peer-reviewed research on disordered gambling, was established in 1996. The NCRG supports the finest peer-reviewed basic and applied research on gambling disorders; encourages the application of new research findings to improve prevention, diagnostic intervention and treatment strategies; and enhances public awareness of pathological and youth gambling. To date, the casino industry and related businesses have committed more than $13 million to this effort, and the NCRG has issued more than $8 million in support of groundbreaking research on gambling disorders. In 2000, the NCRG established the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders at Harvard Medical School’s Division on Addictions. For more information, visit www.ncrg.org.
The Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders is a program of the Division on Addictions at Harvard Medical School. In accordance with the Harvard University name policy, the Institute for Research on Pathological Gambling and Related Disorders should not be referred to as the “Harvard Institute…” or the “Harvard Medical School Institute…” For more information about the use of the Harvard name, visit http://www.techtransfer.harvard.edu/UseOfName.html.