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‘A very exciting day’: Bally’s becomes Horseshoe Las Vegas

Updated March 24, 2023 - 8:35 pm

The iconic Horseshoe brand made a triumphant return to Las Vegas on Friday, landing on the Strip with a ceremony that drew gambling royalty, executives from parent company Caesars Entertainment Inc. and Clark County officials.

Although Caesars announced in December that the 2,812-room Bally’s property on the Strip was to be renamed, Friday’s celebration was an official coming-out party that included appearances by Jack Binion, the son of Horseshoe brand originator Benny Binion, high-stakes gambler James “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, Poker Hall of Fame inductee Doyle Brunson and Clark County Commission Chairman Jim Gibson.

“This is a very exciting day as we bring Horseshoe back to center Strip in Las Vegas,” Jason Gregorec, senior vice president and general manager of Horseshoe, said in an exclusive interview with the Review-Journal.

“It started back 70-some years ago and we’ve reunited the World Series of Poker with Horseshoe. This is now our 10th Horseshoe (property), and it’s a very strong brand, legendary, iconic and this is where it all started. It made sense to be center Strip in Las Vegas.”

Gregorec said the property is “all about the gambler and we make it right for the gambler like they did day one.”

“We continue to add amenities, we’ve continued to add entertainment and obviously we’re the home of the World Series of Poker,” he said.

In addition to a steak restaurant named for Binion, the property has M.Y. Asia by Chef Martin Yan, the World Series of Poker Hall of Fame Poker Room and, in the summer, it will add Guy Fieri’s Flavortown Sports Kitchen.

Several top Caesars executives — CEO Tom Reeg, executive chairman of the board of directors Gary Carano and President and Chief Operating Officer Anthony Carano — addressed hundreds of well-wishers that gathered at the property’s main porte-cochère entrance along with 10 showgirls dressed in the original costumes of the property’s long-running “Jubilee!” show.

Gibson welcomed the new name on behalf of the county and noted that 90,000 cars a day pass through the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Flamingo Road, one of the busiest corners in the world.

During the event, Jack Binion presented Gary Carano with a plaque featuring a horseshoe and the message “The Legend Has Arrived.”

Following the ceremony, gambling legends McIngvale, Binion and Brunson swapped stories in a 30-minute public panel discussion.

Jack Binion, whose father opened the original Horseshoe Club in downtown Las Vegas in 1951, has a steak restaurant in the resort named in his honor.

McIngvale, who owns the Houston-based Furniture Gallery chain, is a high-profile sports bettor known for his big wagers on Houston sports teams and his philanthropic donations with some of his winnings.

Brunson’s appearance marks a new era for the World Series of Poker, which will begin at the Horseshoe in May after originating downtown and moving to the Rio and Paris Las Vegas over the years. Caesars also owns the World Series of Poker brand.

Caesars acquired the Horseshoe brand in 2004 and operates nine other properties with that name across the country.

Attaching the Horseshoe name to the former Bally’s is significant because of the building’s historic past. Opened in December 1973 by industry legend Kirk Kerkorian as the MGM Grand, the property was once one of the largest hotels in the world.

Tragedy struck the building on Nov. 21, 1980, when one of the worst high-rise fires in U.S. history resulted in 87 deaths. When the building reopened in July 1981, it featured some of the industry’s highest fire safety standards, including the addition of fire sprinklers and an automatic fire alarm system throughout the property.

While it was known as the MGM Grand, the property featured wagering on live jai alai matches in the building’s fronton.

Bally Manufacturing acquired the Las Vegas and Reno MGM properties in late 1985 for $550 million and renamed the property Bally’s.

As Bally’s, the resort became the northern terminus of a monorail that shuttled passengers to and from a new MGM Grand property built on the Strip at Tropicana Avenue. The monorail eventually was extended and became the Las Vegas Monorail.

Bally Entertainment was purchased in 1996 by Hilton Hotels Corp., which was later spun off into Park Place Entertainment.

In 2003, Park Place became Caesars Entertainment Inc., but through the years of Caesars ownership, the property kept the Bally’s name — until December.

Contact Richard N. Velotta at rvelotta@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter.

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