One Famous Vegas Gangster Had A Heart, Sometimes
There have always been gangsters of one breed or another that starred in Las Vegas history. People today are still fascinated by the legends and lore of the old “mob” days and its mobsters. This is clearly indicated by the 2012 opening of the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas and the various dinner shows featuring a meal with a mob member.
Like Bugsy Siegel and Tony “The Ant” Spilotro, there was another notorious gangster who was well known in his time, and still is. His name was Benny Binion who had a reputation of his own.
Binion was a Texas transplant. He had a long criminal history before arriving in Nevada. These charges included a couple of murders. Wikipedia says, Binion’s FBI file reveals a criminal history dating back to 1924, listing offenses such as theft, carrying concealed weapons, and two murder convictions.
Even with his criminal history, he was granted a gambling license in Nevada, go figure. He opened the Horseshoe Hotel and Casino (now Binions) on Fremont Street. Benny Binion, was known for his willingness to take a first bet of any amount from gamblers. Dick Odessky, author of Fly on the Wall, said Binion took table bets up to one million dollars.
Benny was also known for breaking legs, and worse, with anyone who tried to cheat him. There are many stories, some true , some maybe not, about what happened to people who crossed Benny. Some reportedly were found dead in the alley behind the casino.
But, despite his criminality, mean streak, and scary reputation, he did actually have a heart at times. Here is one story that demonstrates this.
One day, a preacher from North Carolina came into the Horseshoe. He had brought with him $1000 of church money and proceeded to gamble with it at the craps table. As maybe God would have it, the preacher lost the $1000. Benny gave the preacher his money back with the parting words, “God may forgive you, preacher, but your congregation won’t.”