Thursday, April 30, 2009 | 5:14 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
Map of Binion's Gambling Hall
128 Fremont St., Las Vegas
A landlord has rejected a plea from Binion's hotel-casino that its rent be lowered to help it survive the recession, and instead has filed a lawsuit seeking back rent and the appointment of a receiver to take over the historic gambling hall.
And, an attorney said Thursday, a similar situation is emerging across the street at the nearby Four Queens hotel-casino.
The landlord, a group of individuals and trusts that own some of the land in downtown Las Vegas where Binion's sits, filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Clark County District Court against Binion's Gambling Hall & Hotel and its parent companies Speakeasy Gaming of Fremont Inc. and TLC Casino Enterprises Inc.
These companies are controlled by Terry Caudill, owner of the Four Queens and the Magoo's slot bar chain, who bought Binion's last year from MTR Gaming.
Binion's, founded on Fremont Street as Binion's Horsehoe by legendary gaming figure Benny Binion in 1951, for years hosted the World Series of Poker before it was moved to the Rio. In recent months, Binion's appears to have suffered from the recession along with other Las Vegas properties. The property has 362 hotel rooms and an 87,000-square-foot casino.
In its lawsuit, filed by attorney John Peter Lee, the landlord says Binion's is supposed to pay $252,000 per year in rent.
But, the landlord says, Binion's is behind on rent and has proposed a restructuring of the rent downward.
Lisa Robinson, a spokeswoman for TLC, on Thursday said the company could not comment on the pending litigation.
The suit says Binion's -- which also sits on adjacent land owned by other property owners -- has been asking for rent concessions since February.
Attached to the suit are letters from Brian Arlin, TLC's senior executive director of finance, who wrote: "Operating revenue from our casino has substantially declined and it is no longer possible for TLC Casino Enterprises to meet its obligations under the lease."
The letters indicate TLC has made similar requests for concessions from other landlords and that it has cut staff and expenses to the point where additional cuts would hurt customer service and drive business away.
The letters suggest that TLC's analysis indicates the land at issue is worth $609,800, which would fetch annual rent of $36,588 at a 6 percent rate of return. But TLC offered to pay 8 percent, or $48,784, and to give the landowner a preferred stock certificate allowing it to participate, along with other landowners, in a pro-rata share of up to 5 percent of any distributable profit from a sale of the property during the lease period.
"Without an adjustment of rents to a fair market level, our hotel-casino operation faces an uncertain future," one of Arlin's letters said.
The landlord, however, said in its lawsuit that the defendants have failed to pay the entire lease payment and that a receiver should be appointed to supervise the property.
"The defendant has not confirmed and cannot confirm the allegations made by the defendant of its inability to pay the rent called for by the lease agreement and plaintiff is accordingly unable to determine whether it's in its best interest to allow the defendant to continue in possession without payment of the full amount due under the lease agreement," the lawsuit says. "In order to assure that the income from the defendant operation, including the hotel, gaming casino and other income-producing activities on the leased property be utilized to the best possible benefit, a receiver of the affairs of the defendant should be appointed so that its affairs can be monitored and reported to plaintiffs and the court."
Complicating the issue, the lawsuit said, is that the hotel sits on various adjacent leased properties, but the hotel is not physically divided to correspond with the underlying leased properties. That makes eviction or re-leasing of the land impractical.
Lee on Thursday said that besides the Binion case, he's preparing to file a similar suit involving different landowners that he said TLC's Four Queens is seeking rent concessions from. The Four Queens has 690 rooms and casino with 27,389 square feet of space.
Binion's Gambling Hall has been a landmark in downtown Las Vegas for more than a half a century. The 80,000 square foot casino opens up to Fremont Street Experience and features 80-plus gaming and poker tables and about 800 slot and video poker machines.
Benny's Bullpen Sports Bar and Cigar Lounge is an old fashioned saloon featuring a full-service bar that serves handcrafted beers, a fine selection of cigars, 10 plasma TVs broadcasting live sports and video poker machines.
The Top of Binion's Steak House is open at 5 p.m. and is located high above downtown Las Vegas on the 24th floor.
The pool area is located on the 25th floor, affording a view of downtown and the Strip. It is also available for concerts, special events and weddings.
The property is made up of three historic buildings: The Apache Hotel, The Boulder Club and The Mint. Benny Binion bought the Apache Hotel in 1951 and renamed it the Horseshoe Club. Benny Binion's sons completed the existing footprint in 1988 when they bought Del Webb's Mint Hotel.