Benny Binion was an American gambling icon, career criminal, and convicted murderer who established illegal gambling operations. He moved his operations to Las Vegas and opened Binion's Horseshoe Casino. When he opened his casino, he saw immediate success and this upset everyone in the gambling scene. Benny eventually lost his gambling license and his sons had to step up and help run the casino. A man named Marvin Shumate set up a kidnapping/murder plot for Benny's son, Ted Binion. They ended up backing out of the plan, but Ted ended up being murdered later in his life and there may be buried treasures of his that haven't been found yet.
Lester Ben Binion (who went by Benny Binion) was born November 20th, 1904 and he was an American gambling icon, career criminal, and convicted murdered who established illegal gambling operations in the Dallas Fort Worth, Texas area. He later relocated to Nevada where gambling was legal and he opened Binion's Horseshoe casino in downtown Las Vegas. In the beginning of Benny's life, he was a very ill child and his parents decided to keep him out of school. Even though his health eventually improved, he never ended up going to school and this is mainly how his gambling began. His parents were horse-traders and often gambled at their ranch and this meant that Benny learned from some of the best gamblers around. He moved to El Paso when he was 18 and he began moonshining which meant he was creating alcohol at nighttime during prohibition. He ended up moving to Dallas a year later and was convicted twice for his moonshining operations. Benny decided to continue his operations and add in something called the numbers game. This is also known as the Italian lottery or the daily number and it's a form of illegal gambling that is typically played in poor working class neighborhoods.
In 1931, Benny was convicted of shooting and killing guy named Frank Bolding who was black. He only received a two year suspended sentence for this. This means that the court would provide certain requirements such as a curfew or rehabilitation. If this offer is accepted, you don't have to serve time unless you get in trouble again. It looks like Benny was laying low during this time and by 1936, he had a network of private games established in several Dallas hotels and gained control of most gambling operations in Dallas, with protection from a powerful politician. In this same year, Benny and an accomplice killed a competitor of his, Ben Frieden. They both emptied their pistols into him and Benny allegedly shot himself in the shoulder, then turned himself into the police, claiming that Ben Frieden shot him first. Benny was initially indicted, but it was actually dismissed because they bought his story and believed it was self defense. In 1938, Benny and an accomplice allegedly killed Sam Murray and this was another gambling competitor. Benny was never charged for this murder and charges were dropped against his accomplice.
By the early 1940s, Benny was the reigning mob boss of Dallas and he wanted to take over the gambling scene in Fort Worth and shortly after he decided this, the mob boss of that city, Lewis Tindell, was murdered. Benny did lose some of this power after the 1946 election, he didn't have anyone protecting his ass anymore. This forced him to leave the area and he ended up in Las Vegas, but his problems went with as well. Benny had been in a lengthy feud with Herbert Noble, a Dallas gambler and this continued when Benny went to Vegas. Benny had demanded that Herbert increase his payoff from 25 to 40% and for some strange reason, Herbert didn't like this idea.
Benny decided to put a hit on him and offered a $25k reward. Herbert was able to survive several murder attempts, but one attempt went terribly wrong. In November 1949, Herbert's wife was killed in a car bombing that was actually intended for him. He knew he had to retaliate and planned to fly his private plane to Vegas and bomb Benny's house, but he was restrained by police before he could follow through with this. In August of 1951, he drove up to his mailbox, a bomb exploded, and he was killed instantly.
In 1951, Benny ended up losing his gambling license and was sentenced to a 5 year term for tax evasion. He attempted to open a few casinos, but kept getting into fights with people. He purchased the Eldorado Club and Apache Hotel and opened this as Binion's Horeshoe Casino and this had immediate success due to the high limits on bets. The craps table limit was $500 and this was ten times higher than the limit at any of this competitors. Since Benny was doing really well, he was pissing off everyone else in the gambling scene and began receiving death threats and the other casinos began raising their bet limits to match. Benny shot back and was like, I see your $500 limit and I raise you, a bet of any size, no limits. He also decided to upgrade the casino and covered the floors with carpeting and got limousines to transport his guests to and from the casino. Benny was the first to offer free drinks to people in the casino. His motto became, “Good food, good whiskey cheap, and a good gamble.”
Benny may have been shitty to his competitors, but his guests saw a generous man. For a long time, they had a late night $2 steak special and the meat came from cattle on Benny's ranches in Montana. Benny was running one of the most profitable casinos in town. Unfortunately, he was convicted in 1953 and had to cover back taxes and legal costs, so he sold a majority of the casino to another gambler, Joe W. Brown. The Binion family was able to regain the majority of the control in 1957, but they didn't get full control back until 1964. Since Benny was no longer allowed to ever hold a gaming license again, his son, Jack had to step in and get licensed. Benny had 5 children and this story isn't actually about him, it's about his son, Ted. He was involved early on in his father's casino, Binion's Horseshoe. Ted and his brother, Jack, took over the day-to-day operations of the casino, but it was Ted who was seen most for 30 years. He worked the events, peak evening hours, and was the host of the Horseshoe's poker tournaments.
In 1967, a man named Marvin Shumate became one of the most famous gamblers in town. He spent a lot of time at the Horseshoe casino and his 22 year old son, Dennis, was friends with Ted Binion. Marvin had an interesting idea to become a very wealthy man. Marvin loved that his son was friends with Ted and would get information from him on Ted's routines. Marvin was going to get some of his friends from a cab company to kidnap Ted Binion from a bar. They figured they could collect a pretty hefty ransom from Ted's father. Marvin laid out his kidnapping plot to a few people and they were totally down to help. After thinking things over, he realized he would need to make a slight change to the plan. The only way to get away with the ransom money would be to kill Ted after they got paid. Marvin explained this to the others and let them know that there's no other way to make this work. If they kept Ted alive, he would be able to give his father enough information to link Marvin to this plot and he didn't have a record of violence and apparently he didn't want one.
Marvin's friend, Bill Wade was originally willing to help with the kidnapping plot, but he wasn't really down to commit murder. He thought about it for awhile and came up with a plan of his own. He was going to tell Benny Binion about the murder plot. Bill Wade reached out to a man called “the only honest cop in town” Detective Mike Whitney. This detective gave his word that no other officer in the department would be involved in this. That was the only way Bill Wade would tell him what was going on. The detective notified Benny Binion of the kidnapping plot and told him who was behind the whole thing. At this time, Bill Wade ended up cutting off all contact with Marvin and thought he could just go back to living a normal life. The detective let Bill Wade know that Benny Binion truly appreciated the tip about the murder plot and he had money delivered to him.
In the 60s, there was big time corruption in Las Vegas law enforcement and they were pretty much being controlled by the mob. In fact, Benny Binion was sending large amounts of money to people in the department and it's believed that detective Mike Whitney was a recipient of this. He really did keep the secret from his superiors and failed to tell them about the Ted Binion kidnapping plot. It's believed that in return for the tip, the detective may have received a large sum of money to keep his mouth shut and look the other way. You see, Benny Binion had a way of dealing with things on his own.
Marvin noticed that his buddy Bill Wade stopped coming around and this wasn't his first rodeo. He started to wonder if he was a snitch. Marvin also wondered if this whole plot was even worth it anymore. On the evening of December 2nd, 1967, Marvin was just finishing a really busy shift and he clocked out at 8 PM, dropped off his taxi and headed over to his normal spot, Pappy's Bar. Before he got inside, a friend of his, Tom Hanley, said he needed some help with business and there would be a big payout. Marvin agreed to help and hopped in the car and there were already two other men inside. The vehicle headed down Flamingo Road towards the desert. Marvin knew what was happening and tried to tell the men that they could work something out.
Eventually, the car came to a stop and Hanley and his associates got out. They lead Marvin a few hundred yards and they told him to turn around. Hanley was standing three feet away from Marvin and shot a single round into his chest. Even though this blew his heart and lungs apart, they couldn't take any changes. The gang shot another round into his head just behind the ear.
When Marvin's body was discovered and the media heard about the kidnapping plot, the story made front page news. They knew the plot involved a “prominent downtown gambling figure”, but the police absolutely refused to say who this gambling figure actually was. After the murder, Hanley contacted Bill Wade and made him come pick up the murder weapons and bury them in the desert. Afterwards, he received an anonymous call at Pappy's Bar. He was told, “You've got twenty-four hours to get out of Vegas. Or else.” If I was in this position, I would collect my cats and peace out. Bill Wade thought it was a better idea to go to the police. He told them about the threat and said he had information about Marvin's murder. This guy obviously hangs out with people in the mob, you'd think he would know that snitches get stitches.
The sheriff, who was a close friend of Benny Binion's, was like, hey, we can just lock you up in a spare cell for protection. Bill Wade stayed in there for three days and Detective Whitney stopped by and told him, I heard about that death threat. There's really no reason for you to even stay in Vegas. Then he handed him $300 and said it was from Old Man Binion to cover his relocation costs. Luckily, this did the trick. Bill Wade was released and fled to another state. A few weeks after Marvin's murder, Detective Whitney was suspended after it was discovered that he was so involved with Benny Binion. A few weeks later, he was cleared of any wrong-doing and got to keep his job.
It was obvious to everyone that Benny Binion had Marvin killed, but no one was ever charged. The sheriff couldn't have done anything about it even if he wanted to. Since he had received so many sums of money from Benny, he knew he would be investigated if he tried anything. Ted Binion survived this kidnapping/murder plot, but he fell into a playboy lifestyle and had a serious heroin addiction.
Ted liked that he got to party, talk to high profile guests, and flirt with women every night. He was arrested in 1986 for drug trafficking and it drew attention to someone in organized crime. Ten years later, 1996, he was banned from any management role in the Horseshoe and Ted now had the mob and the Nevada Gaming Control Board up his ass. He had to get regular drug tests and it was tough to pass them, so he decided to shave all of the hair off from his whole body to avoid the test. In 1997, Ted's gaming license was suspended for violating the agreement. He wasn't allowed to ever be associated with the family business ever again. Inside the basement of the casino, there was something quite valuable. Ted had been storing his silver collection and it was in a floor-to-ceiling vault. Now that he was barred from the family business, he had to get a secure spot for his silver.
On September 17th, 1998, Ted Binion was found dead on a small mattress on the floor of his Las Vegas home. Empty pill bottles were near his body and an autopsy and toxicology report showed that he died from a combination of Xanax, heroin, and traces of Valium. The day before Ted's death, he had purchased 12 pieces of tar heroin from a drug dealer, and he had gotten a prescription for Xanax from his next door neighbor, who was a doctor. He took the prescription to the pharmacy and got it filled. At first glance, this was treated as a suicide. At the time, Ted's girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, said he had been suicidal for months since he lost his gaming license. Ted's sister had drug problems and ended up taking her own life in 1977. His other sister, Becky didn't believe this was suicide though.
During the investigation, Las Vegas homicide detectives believed that the scene was staged and noted that Ted's body didn't show typical signs of a drug overdose. Also, the heroin was found in the stomach which was extremely odd. An addict wouldn't ingest heroin this way and it doesn't make sense that Ted would take heroin that way for a suicide. The Binion family begged police to reopen the case as a homicide investigation, but they refused. Six months later, Ted's death was ruled an overdose. On May 5th, 1999, this was changed to a homicide and it was discovered that Ted's girlfriend had been cheating on him and she was suspected of murder.
In June 1999, Ted's girlfriend, Sandy Murphy and Rick Tabish were arrested for Ted Binion's murder and for conspiracy, robbery, grand larceny, and burglary. It was believed that Sandy and Rick conspired to kill Ted and steal his wealth and they drugged and suffocated him. They were both charged with murder and burglary for removing Ted's fortune from his vault on the desert floor of Pahrump. They were both found guilty, Rick got 25 years to life and Sandy received 22 years to life. In 2003 the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the murder convictions because errors were discovered that would make this an unfair trial. Sandy and Rick were granted a new trial and they were both acquitted of murder, but convicted of burglary and grand larceny and Rick also caught a charge for use of a deadly weapon. Sandy was sentenced to time served and didn't return to prison.
When it comes to Ted's money, it was well known that he hid money and valuables in various locations before his death. Supposedly, he hid a large amount of money in his home, but it's never been found. Ted hired a contractor to help him construct a vault in Pahrump and he hid 6 tons of silver, casino chips, paper money and more than 100k coins. The man that was contracted for this was Rick Tabish. Two days after Ted's death in 1998, deputies found Rick and two other men digging up the vault. The fortune in the vault was obviously discovered, but it's believed that there's more out there and people haven't stopped looking. A man named Richard Cleaves, that worked at the Binion property was arrested in 2017 for digging holes and trying to find the buried treasure.
Rick Tabish's lawyer claims that the FBI is holding some interesting information that would change everything. Apparently, they have recorded conversations from a group of criminals that were discussing the murder of Ted Binion. On the day of his death, he may have received a $10 million check for his involvement in a casino game. An informant says that Ted's brother, Jack, had a role in organizing his death.
Man arrested for looking for Ted Binion's buried treasure in Pahrump (ktnv.com)
Ted Binion Kidnapping Plot — Mayhem in the Desert
FBI documents could add twist to Tabish case | | missoulian.com
The Binion Family Bio - What Is the Story of the Binions? (gamblingsites.com)