$5,000 Horseshoe chip may be a clue if new trial is ordered
in the Ted Binion case
INSIDE VEGAS by Steve Miller
High stakes gambler Bob Stupak was notably the best friend of former
Horseshoe owners Jack and Ted Binion. Stupak is still often shown
in reruns on national television at the Horseshoe Club gambling during
the Binion's proprietorship.
The Binions ran the club until the unfriendly takeover by their estranged
sister Becky and her husband Nick Behnen in June 1998. Bob Stupak
and a number of other high rollers stopped gambling at the Horseshoe after
the Behnens arrived on the scene.
The Behnens have not been as successful in running the casino as their
brothers. Since their arrival, the casino has been plagued with financial
troubles. The dismantling of the glass display of one million dollars
in cash is sited as an example of how winnings have leveled off for the
Behnens. The abyss between Becky and Jack has also reportedly grown
since the takeover and Ted's untimely death.
Becky was recently shown on TV "mourning" at her brother Ted's grave.
Some viewers thought the news cameras coincidentally showing up just when
she decided to visit the grave was indication that the event was staged
- especially with the speculation about the hostility between the siblings.
One day in November 1998, following Ted's death, his close friend Bob
Stupak entered the Horseshoe Club and tried to cash $250,000 worth of $5,000
chips. Stupak also attempted to retrieve two safe deposit boxes full of
cash he had on deposit in the casino's cage.
Becky and Nick unexplainably refused to cash Stupak's chips or return
his currency. Stupak loudly protested and was thrown out by Becky
and Nick's 23 year old son Benny. Stupak
filed a police report saying Benny took a swing at him during the episode.
Stupak had over $300,000 in one hundred dollar bills stored in the Horseshoe's
casino cage at the time - not that unusual for a regular high stakes player.
The Behnens obviously had no intention of returning Bob's money!
Nick Behnen is not licensed as an employee of the Horseshoe and is not
entitled to exercise authority in the casino, though Nick was identified
as the person who made the decision to throw Stupak out that morning and
keep his two boxes of money.
Bob Stupak really needed help. He called my home later that day.
The week of this occurrence, the National Gambling Impact Study Commission
was in town and the eyes of the nation were on the hearings at the MGM.
Also in town was nationally known gambling critic the Reverend Tom Grey,
Executive Director of the National Coalition Against Gambling Expansion.
Rev. Grey was my house guest.
Stupak invited Rev. Grey and I to meet him for dinner after the Study
Commission hearings. After dinner, Stupak donated one of his then-uncashable
$5,000 "chocolate chips" to Grey's Methodist church in Illinois. Grey accepted
the chip referring to it as "the coin of the realm." The rest is
By donating the chip to Grey's church, Stupak showed his hand. He knew
that Nick and Becky Behnen were soon to meet their match in the Reverend
Thomas Grey! He also knew that Grey would not waste such a generous
donation to his church's inner-city youth group. Rev. Grey had just been
featured on CBS Sixty Minutes and is a close friend of several syndicated
journalists including New York Times columnist William Safire. Grey
is also a critic of Nevada Gaming Regulations, the Nevada Gaming Commission,
and its' Chairman Bill Bible who was a Gambling Impact Study Commissioner.
Rev. Grey and I were especially interested in embarrassing Bible for
his encouraging casino expansion outside Nevada. Stupak's uncashable
chip was our perfect justification!
Rev. Grey and I left the meeting with Stupak at 10 PM and drove directly
to the Horseshoe. We went to the casino cage where Grey presented
the chip for redemption. A manager was called over and he told Rev.
Grey that only a man by the name of Mr. Perkins had the authority to cash
a $5,000 chip and that he had gone home for the night. We were asked to
return in the morning when Mr. Perkins was on duty.
The following day Rev. Grey had a plane to catch so we returned to the
Horseshoe early. The Reverend asked for Mr. Perkins. An elderly man stepped
forward and immediately ordered us to leave the casino. He summoned security
guards while shouting at Rev. Grey and myself. We exited without
Rev. Grey gave me possession of the $5,000 chip and asked me to send
his church a check when and if I could get it cashed. I felt compelled
to succeed for the sake of Rev. Grey's prized inner-city youth group that
he described as desperately needing the funds.
Later that day I informed Bob Stupak of our rude treatment at the Horseshoe.
He was not surprised and had alternative plans. Meanwhile, Rev. Grey contacted
the national media and the story began to spread.
"Nevada casino refuses to honor its own chips."
I returned to the MGM for the last day of the Gambling Impact Study
Commission hearings. I relayed the story of Rev. Grey's oppressive treatment
at the Horseshoe to anyone who cared to listen, especially reporters.
I showed everyone Grey's uncashable $5,000 Horseshoe chip to prove my point.
The chip caper became a major news story.
Bob Stupak ask me to meet him at 3 PM in front of the Horseshoe.
I couldn't wait to see what he had in mind!
When I arrived with the chip, Bob, his attorney, two Nevada Gaming Control
agents, and a plethora of reporters greeted me.
Against the orders of Horseshoe security officers, we entered the casino.
I walked up to the cage and politely requested that they cash the chip.
Becky and Nick Behnen were present and ordered the cashiers to ignore my
request. I persisted as the TV cameras rolled. The standoff continued.
Then, to my delight, the two Gaming Control agents showed their badges
and ordered the Behnens to cash my chip. Becky gave no reason and continued
to refuse to make the redemption. Then the agents ordered Behnen to bring
Stupak's cash boxes to the counter. She complied and had the two boxes
I stood by while cashiers hand counted the first $300,000.00 in one
hundred dollar bills. I stopped monitoring while they continued counting
for another half-hour. Stupak shoved the cash into several plastic "Fabulous
Las Vegas" shopping bags purchased at the gift shop.
I asked the Gaming Control agents what they were intending to do now
since the Behnens were still refusing to cash my chip. They replied that
they had to speak to their superiors. I commented that if this had happened
at Stupak's old Vegas World Casino, they would have put a padlock on the
door! The Behnens obviously had more clout than Stupak that day.
That was the day that I was also eighty-sixed permanently from the Horseshoe.
No big loss for me since I'm not a gambler and hadn't been in the place
for at least ten years.
Stupak and his attorney left the Horseshoe and carried the bags of cash
across the street to deposit the money in the cage of the Golden Nugget
where Bob was still welcome.
Not yet ready to give up and let Bill Bible and the Gaming Control Board
do our bidding, Bob and I had more tricks up our sleeve for Nick and Becky.
We drove back to Stupak's attorney's office where I filed a lawsuit
against the Behnens and the Horseshoe Club on behalf of Reverend Grey and
STEVE MILLER and REVEREND THOMAS GREY vs. THE HORSESHOE CLUB spelled
out the Behnen's clear violation of Nevada Gaming laws. The briefs from
the lawsuit were immediately shared with gaming authorities in Carson City,
and the National Gambling Impact Study Commission.
Carson City promptly started an intense investigation. The Behnens
soon groveled. We decided to let the gaming officials handle the problem
and dismissed the lawsuit. However, Bob and I were not yet through with
the people who eighty-sixed us from their casino.
Just as we expected, the Behnens were bringing embarrassment upon their
own industry. To put a spotlight on them, Bob called me the next day and
again requested we meet in front of the Horseshoe at 3 PM. I rushed
downtown to see what he had planned this time.
In addition to the now familiar assemblage of reporters and cameras,
the entire UNLV football team surrounded Bob! He had hired thirty
muscle-bound college guys to accompany us back into the Horseshoe. We marched
past protesting security guards and once again headed directly to the casino
cage. I politely presented my "chocolate chip" and was immediately refused.
This time though something very unusual happened right in front of the
A big, mean looking guy in a fancy suit yelled at me. "Hey Miller, I
know who you are and this is no joke! I want to see you in my office right
Having heard the legends about what has happened to other hapless individuals
who had the misfortune to be "invited" into the "office" at the Horseshoe,
I could find no words to express my emotion. I began laughing. This made
the big guy furious! Even the observers showed empathy for the situation.
Everybody remembered those news stories about people being beat up in the
"office" at the Horseshoe.
Not being prepared for my natural reaction to being invited into the
"office," Bob decided to lead his entourage outside. I knew this would
be my last visit to the friendly Horseshoe and I really did not want to
go so soon, but Bob insisted.
Later that day, an old friend who has worked at the Horseshoe for over
thirty years met with me. He told me his version of what was happening.
It made a lot of sense.
He said that on the days that Ted and Jack were vacating the casino,
both brothers had gone into the casino cage and emptied the racks of "chocolate
chips." He stated that when Ted left in 1996, and when Jack left
in 1998, they were still the owners at the time and had every right to
take the chips.
He then told me that the brothers were planning to cash the chips all
at once to break the bank and take back the hotel at a time in the future
when they anticipated Becky and Nick Behnen would fail the business. Jack
and Ted were supposedly just waiting for the Behnens to have a dry spell
and deplete the reserves enough to not be able to cash the chips all at
once, a serious violation of state law. He then said that Ted had "taken
care" of former Vegas Mayor Jan Jones when she was running for Governor
so that Ted, with her help, would get his gaming license reinstated so
he and his brother could force their sister and brother in law out.
Since Ted's death, Binion's Horseshoe has been bleeding red ink and
there's no sign of improvement. Becky Binion Behnen has been forced to
plow millions in personal funds into Horseshoe accounts to keep the failing
property open, while the list of Horseshoe business associates owed money
continues to grow. A National Labor Relations Board complaint has been
filed accusing the casino of being behind on contractually promised payments
to the Culinary's health and welfare plan. Other problems include the casino
being $2.5 million behind on payments to the Fremont Street Experience
pedestrian mall, and being in arrears on lease payments owed to property
State gaming regulators in October forced the downtown casino to shut
down hundreds of slot machines as well as several table games and its keno
operation when the Horseshoe's bankroll dropped below the state's minimum
It was expected that Jack and Ted's closest friends would present the
chips all at once. The "test" would be if I could get the chip in my possession
cashed. If so, then all the chips would arrive on a selected day soon thereafter,
the bank would be broken, and Jack and Ted would take the club back. Unfortunately,
Ted was gone and Jack had little ambition to take back the Horseshoe without
him, though it was speculated that he would take the property back if Bob
Stupak would agree to manage the casino. It remains to be seen what role
Stupak will play if Binion recovers the Horseshoe.
Ted was paranoid about his safety during the weeks leading up to his
death and asked old friends to stay close to him day and night. He also
stated that someone had broken all of the lenses on the eight security
cameras surrounding his house on the evening before his death therefore
the cameras could not show incriminating activity.
Ted died the day following Jones' visit to his house to pick up her
$40,000 campaign contribution. Jones later lost the gubernatorial election.
Reverend Grey's chip was cashed twelve months later in July 1999, one
day before the Gaming Commission was to hold a public hearing on the Behnen's
refusal to cash the chips. Rev. Grey's church received a check for $5,000
the following day.
The Behnens have since found the the money to cash all of the remaining
of Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish, the accused murderers of Ted Binion, is
being considered by the Nevada Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Horseshoe Gaming
Holding Corp. just announced that it will relocate its corporate office
to Las Vegas from suburban Chicago. The company owned by Jack Binion is
the largest privately held gaming company in the United States; it operates
Horseshoe casinos in Bossier City, La.; Hammond, Ind., and Tunica, Miss.
Gaming observers believe that Jack Binion is relocating to be near the
Las Vegas Horseshoe in the probable event it closes. If that occurs, he
will be in line to take it back and continue operations since he is still
named on the casino's gaming license. However, those close to him say that
without his brother by his side, he is not anxious for that to occur.
Last year, FBI documents surfaced
that indicate the bureau once considered the possibility that people other
than Murphy and Tabish could have been involved in the slaying of Ted Binion.
in 1996 attracted police attention when Benny Behnen was linked to a drive-by
shooting outside Ted Binion's Palomino Lane home, the same house in which
Binion was found dead Sept. 17, 1998. Though Binion named his nephew in
report, he was not charged. A friend of Benny Behnen, Grover LeSueur,
although initially charged with attempted murder, eventually pleaded guilty
to lesser charges. Several years later, LeSueur, then 23, was found dead
of unknown causes in Phoenix, Arizona.
Copyright © Steve Miller
email Steve Miller at: Stevemiller4lv@aol.com