The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 27, Number 10, March 10 2024, Article 10

TED BINION (1943-1998)

E-Sylum Feature Writer and American Numismatic Biographies author Pete Smith submitted this article on Ted Binion, son of Las Vegas Horseshoe casino owner Benny Binion. Thanks! -Editor

  Ted Binion (1943-1998)

Ted Binion.01 This week I added Ted Binion to the Numismatic Rogues Gallery. He has been mentioned here previously in shorter versions of his story.

Lonnie Theodore Binion was born in Dallas, Texas, on November 28, 1943, the son of casino owner Benny Binion. Benny owned Binion's Horseshoe Casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas. He got in trouble for tax evasion and lost his gaming license in 1964.

His sons took over management of the casino. Jack Binion, age 23, became president and Ted Binion, age 21, became casino manager. Ted enjoyed the night life, partying and hosting poker tournaments. He also enjoyed recreational drugs and recreational women.

Sandy Murphy.01 Ted picked up a wife and two children along the way. He was married to Doris from 1980 to 1995. She was set aside when he invited 23-year-old Sandy Murphy to move in with him. She had come from Los Angeles and lost all her money playing poker. To support herself, she worked as a topless dancer at Cheetahs, a club owned by Binion.

Casino owners are supposed to avoid drug use and avoid friendships with gangsters. Binion got in trouble for both. Drug use got his license suspended in May 1997 when he failed a drug test. His license was permanently revoked in March 1998 because of involvement with gangster Herbert Fat Herbie Blitzstein. By that time, Blitzstein had come to an unfortunate end with a bullet in the back of his head.

Ted's banning from the Horseshoe created a heavy problem. He no longer had access to tons of silver stashed in a vault in the basement. He hired a family friend, contractor Rick Tabish, to build him an underground vault on vacant land near downtown Pahrump, Nevada, for $40,000. The vault contained 46,000 pounds of silver bullion. 135,000 Morgan and Peace silver dollars, casino chips and currency.

Rick Tabish.01 Binion was not aware that his trusted friend Tabish was having an affair with Murphy. On July 4, 1998, Tabish and workers transported the treasure to Pahrump and buried it. Binion advised the sheriff to keep an eye on the property.

Tabish had other business interests. It was alleged that Tabish and Steven Wadkins kidnapped Leo Casey and took him to a sand pit he owned on July 28, 1998. There they beat him with the yellow pages phone book and tortured him for more than an hour to sign over ownership of the sand pit.

Sandy Murphy called police on September 17, 1998. They found Ted Binion lying dead on a yoga mat. An autopsy found heroin and Xanex in his system. Although suicide was considered, the death was believed to be a drug overdose.

An investigation found that Binion had bought twelve balloons of tar heroin on the day before his death. He had also filled a prescription for Xanex. That day he told his attorney, Jim Brown, Take Sandy out of the will, if she doesn't kill me tonight. If I am dead, you will know what happened. His brother, Jack, and sister, Becky, pressured authorities to investigate it as a homicide.

Two nights after Binion's death, Rick Tabish was discovered at 2:00 in the morning, digging up the Pahrump vault with two helpers. He claimed that Binion told him (Tabish) that if anything happened to him (Binion), Tabish should dig up the vault and give the contents to Binion's daughter. Authorities did not believe him.

Murphy and Tabish were arrested in June 1999 and charged with murder, robbery, grand theft, burglary and conspiracy. The prosecution contended the defendants had suffocated him by covering his nose and mouth and sitting on him. The trial was a national media sensation. Both were convicted in May of 2000. Tabish received a sentence of twenty-five years to life in prison. Murphy got twenty-two years to life.

Binion was known to keep valuables like gold, diamonds and currency around the house and may have buried some on his property. Intruders came in the night and dug holes in his lawn. Former Binion ranch manager David Mattsen told authorities he could lead them to buried treasure. A septic tank was dug up and a hollow tree examined. The missing treasure was not found.

Three years after the trial the Nevada Supreme Court overturned the conviction. They contended that evidence of the Leo Casey assault should not have been presented and was prejudicial. After a second trial, both were acquitted of the murder charges but convicted on the lesser charges. Murphy was given credit for time served and was released from prison. Tabish was released on parole on April 2, 2010.

Sandy Murphy later married Kevin Pieropan and they own an art gallery in Laguna Beach, California.

Rick Tabish returned to business in Montana. One project seeks to turn smelter waste into pig iron and proppant used in fracking. Another project involves construction of a huge facility to mine cryptocurrency.

Becky Binion Behnen acquired controlling interest in The Horseshoe in 1998. The $1 million currency exhibit was sold to Jay Parino. Long disputes with labor unions put the casino out of business. It was sold to Harrah's Entertainment and reopened under their management in 2004.

At last report, there were two places to see a million dollars in Las Vegas. Binion's Gambling Hall and Hotel at the original Fremont Street location has plexiglass cases in the form of a pyramid. It includes $270,000 in $100 bills, $688,000 in $20 bills and $42,000 in $1 bills.

Horseshoe Las Vegas Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas strip has a display reported to have 10,000 $100 bills. There is also a $1 million wall display at the Horseshoe Casino in Bossier City, Louisiana.

The Binion hoard contained 135,000 Morgan and Peace silver dollars. About 50,000 of them were uncirculated. They were acquired by Spectrum Numismatic International for $3.3 million. Numismatic Guaranty Company put them in holders with a special green label indicating they came from the Binion collection. Goldline International Inc. began marketing them in 2002. These have sold on the market at a higher level than similar grades without the Binion label.

Was Binion's death accidental, suicide or murder? That question remains unanswered.

To read earlier E-Sylum articles, see:

  Whitman Expo E-Sylum ad 2024-02-25 Spring Expo

Wayne Homren, Editor

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