When you go to Las Vegas, you expect to see (if not spend, or even win) a lot of cash. But unless you’re sitting in the most exclusive VIP rooms of The Strip’s most famous casinos, you won’t likely see more cash on the tables as you will at Binion’s Gambling Hall in Downtown.
Binion’s casino, established in 1951 by the famous Benny Binion himself, is known for a lot of things. Originally named Binion’s Horseshoe Casino, his was the first to offer comp points to all players, not just big spenders. It was the birthplace of the World Series of Poker in 1970, hosted by Benny’s son Jack Binion.
But of all the popular Las Vegas attractions still in existence today, Binion’s most assiduous claim to fame is its historic $1,000,000 Cash Display.
Binion’s $1 Million Cash Display
For more than 40 years – non-consecutive – travelers to Las Vegas have been drawn to the Downtown casino for the chance to have their picture taken alongside $1 million dollars in cold hard cash. In fact, it’s one of the few free Las Vegas attractions that remain in the City of Sin.
The heavily guarded display has been altered three times over the years, thanks to its owner auctioning off the original and second-string displays, but it’s always made its way back to Binion’s.
Oddly enough, it wasn’t even Benny Binion himself that began the munificent tradition. Convicted for tax evasion, Benny sold his interest in the casino to a fellow gambler, Joe W. Brown, to raise $5 million to pay his legal fees before spending 5 years – 1953 to 1957 – in Leavenworth. Sometime during Brown’s control, he installed the first $1m cash display at the casino.
When Benny returned from prison, he regained control of the casino from Brown and ended up selling the green-back exhibit in a private auction in 1959.
It didn’t take long for Benny to realize just how popular the Las Vegas attraction had been, so in the early 1960’s, he decided to have it reinstated. This time, it was made up of one-hundred $10,000 bills, displayed on a flat panel with 5-across and 20-down. This version was by far the most popular.
It hung from an archway designed for patron photo-ops, and stood for more than three decades until it was again sold at private auction – this time by then-owner Becky Behnen, who said she receive “a substantial amount” from the buyer.
Another 8 years would pass before the casino switched hands once more, bought by Four Queens owner TLC Casino Enterprises in March 2008. One of the new owner’s first orders was to bring the $1,000,000 Cash Photo-Op back to Binion’s Gambling Hall.
This latest version, which can still be seen today, looks nothing like the previous wall of $10k bills. By 2008, such large currency wasn’t so easy to come by. Instead, the attraction was built as a cash pyramid using a grand total of 79,100 USD notes – 2,700 $100 bills, 34,400 $20 bills and 42,000 $1 bills.
The free Las Vegas attraction is on display at Binion’s Gambling Hall at 128 East Fremont St, available for photographs every day from 10:00am to 11:00pm.