Jack Binion gave $1000 to the Todd Gloria's 2020 election fund on January 7.
San Diego and Las Vegas have had a long, wild history together.
Besides the mobbed-up Moe Dalitz's La Costa resorts, San Diego County has played host to marginal figures who became Vegas notables, including Dalitz crony Wilbur Clark. A onetime bellhop at the San Diego Knickerbocker hotel, Clark built and ran the Desert Inn and casino under Dalitz's guidance.
More recently, the 1990s Cheetahs bribery case, which forced the resignation of three San Diego city council members and put one behind bars, began as an investigation of the Nevada strip club's doings by Vegas-based federal prosecutors.
Moe Dalitz's La Costa resorts were one San Diego connection to Las Vegas.
The latest connection comes in the form of an April 7 campaign contribution disclosure report by Democratic mayor Todd Gloria, revealing that Jack Binion, son of infamous Vegas casino magnate Benny Binion, gave $1000 to the San Diego Democrat's 2020 election fund on January 7.
Binion is listed on the document as CEO of Pilot Grove Management. Dominic Polizzotto, listed as CEO of Pilot Grove, LLC. and a longtime Binion associate, kicked in $500 on January 6, per the filing.
Born in Pilot Grove, Texas, Benny Binion, who died December 25, 1989, at 85, led a colorful, if murderous, career, and the gambling legend and owner of the famed Horseshoe Casino on the strip wound up doing three years behind bars.
"From 1954-1957, he served time in Leavenworth Penitentiary for tax evasion during his gambling operations in Texas," notes an online Binion biography by PBS's American Experience.
A onetime bellhop at the San Diego Knickerbocker hotel, Wilbur Clark built and ran the Desert Inn and casino under Dalitz's guidance.
"By 1964, however, Binion was out of jail, and his family had control of the Horseshoe once more. Binion was never reissued a gambling license after his stint in prison, but his sons, Jack and Ted, and his wife, Teddy Jane, ran the casino, as he earned a salary as a 'consultant.'"
Binion started in Dallas, Texas as a 24-year-old horse trader, the account notes, then took to bootlegging, illegal lotteries, and bombing his rivals.
"In the 1930s and 1940s, many murders in Dallas were attributed to Binion," says the PBS bio. "For most of the next two decades, Binion built up a lucrative underground business, becoming involved with prominent politicians and members of the Syndicate.
"Binion tried to kill a competitor named Herbert Noble and missed with his trademark bomb. Facing possible prosecution from authorities, or worse from rival gang members, Binion decided to skip town."
Jack Binion's father, Benny Binion, "killed people through others and then killed the witnesses."
During his Vegas period, says the account, Binion, "killed people through others and then killed the witnesses. One victim was a former FBI agent, Bill Coulter, who Binion had blown up in a parking garage in 1972 and still remains an unsolved murder."
"Binion, as with many of the casino owners in his time, had connections -- 'juice' as Las Vegans call it -- and charges were never placed against him."
After Benny Binion's death, family strife and tragedy struck the Binions. In September 1998, Jack Binion's brother Ted, a heroin addict, was found dead in his Las Vegas home, and his girlfriend Sandy Murphy, 28 years his junior, was charged with and convicted of arranging his murder.
The Nevada Supreme Court threw out the guilty verdict in 2000, citing judicial errors, and Murphy was acquitted by a second jury in 2003, setting her free after four years in prison. She moved to Orange County's Monarch Beach, according to a May 2010 profile in Orange Coast Magazine.
Jack Binion has also had issues, as described in a 2002 disclosure document filed with the federal Securities & Exchange Commission by Horseshoe Gaming Holding, Inc., whose assets included a Joliet, Illinois gambling emporium.
"On June 30, 2000, the [Illinios Gaming Board] preliminarily denied Joliet's application to renew its gaming license and preliminarily found Jack Binion the Company's chairman of the board and CEO, unsuitable to be licensed as a key person," according to the disclosure.
"Joliet filed a Verified Request for Hearing of the [Illinois Gaming Board's] decision. Effective January 31, 2001, the IGB approved a settlement agreement between the IGB, the Company, Joliet and Binion."
As a result of the deal, Horseshoe Gaming "sold Joliet to a suitable purchaser; Binion withdrew his key person application; and Joliet withdrew its Verified Request for Hearing, thereby causing the previous denial to be moot."
As recounted by the Las Vegas Sun in July 2000,"The five-member Illinois Gaming Board voted unanimously to deny an owner's license to Horseshoe Gaming Inc., chief executive Jack Binion, after a report that staff investigators uncovered questionable business practices and compliance issues involving Binion in Nevada, Louisiana and at the Joliet casino."
According to that account, an investigative report obtained by the Chicago Tribune "said that Binion offered 'highly irregular' partnerships to four people in Louisiana who were not investors in his casino ventures and appeared to do little actual work other than to offer ties to politicians and 'local influence.'"
Including the Binion cash, Gloria collected $33,650 in monetary contributions, many from lobbyists and real estate developers, between the beginning of this year and April 7, his filing shows. After making $106,162 in cash payments, the San Diego mayor's election fund closed up shop with a zero balance and filed its termination statement.