Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club 

128 Fremont

 

Las Vegas, NV

195

3

to 19

58

Colorful swizzle sticks from Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club 1958 to 1960
Ashtray from Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club 1958 to 1960
Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club Postcard
Gaming Guide from Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club
Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club Million Dollar Display
Ad from March 1955 Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club
Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club Las Vegas  1958 to 1960
You may have seen this One Million Dollar
display before.

But who came up with the idea?
Where did the money come from?
Was it real money?

Howard Hickson wrote a great article about it.
Read it here!
On December 11, 1953 the Nevada tax commission approved the sale of the Horseshoe Club
to Joe W. Brown who paid $858,000
for 97½% interest in the casino.

Brown gave 5% interest to his wife's nephew, W. C. Dorsett, formerly of New Orleans, who had been the general manager of the Horseshoe for the previous several months. Both Brown and Dorsett were granted Nevada state gambling licenses.

These actions removed Binion from the Nevada gambling scene and was a precursor to his losing his Nevada gambling license.

In his appearance before the commission, Joe W. Brown said he bought the casino as a favor to Binion and to provide jobs for employees of two gambling clubs he operated in New Orleans. 

Brown had operated the Jai-a-Lai Club near New Orleans and also operated a horse-book and dice game in the same area from 1934 to 1947.  Under oath, Brown denied he had ever been associated with the notorious figure “dandy” Phil Kastel, although he was 'acquainted' with him. A commission investigator who had traveled to New orleans could find no links between Brown and any crime syndicate and said he had enjoyed an “excellent reputation” among businessmen and officials in the area. The commission disclosed that Brown's net worth was over $5 million dollars and he had an income of over $1 million a year stemming from 11 producing oil and 8 gas wells.

On December 18th, 1953, Benny Binion sat in a Dallas county jail as he awaited transfer to Leavenworth Federal Prison for a five year prison stint.
Portrait from the Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation
So just who was Joe W. Brown? 

Gene Trimble writes:

Joseph Warlick Brown was born northwest of Ft. Worth, Texas in 1897, moved to Houston in the 1910’s and then to Dallas in the 1920’s.

In the late 1920’s he moved to New Orleans where he became rich running gambling operations (Brown once claimed:

“I am one of the few people who ever made a million dollars gambling who never got his name mentioned in the Kefauver reports”.

Brown put a lot of the money made from his gambling into oil properties and became a very wealthy man. When he took over the Horseshoe Club in December 1953, he said he did so “to do a favor for Binion” who was on his way to federal prison.

Binion was released from prison in March 1957 but for various reasons was not able to officially take back his club and it continued to run under Joe W. Brown’s name until the summer of 1958 when a heart attack forced Brown to sell his interest in the club and move back to New Orleans where he died in Feb.1959.

In January 1955 Joe W. Brown bought the Las Vegas Racetrack which was in federal bankruptcy for $2,650,000. 

Brown said he would hold the 480 acre plot for the City of Las Vegas who wanted it for a convention site. The racetrack was built in 1953 at a cost of $4.5 million but had never shown a profit. It opened Labor Day of 1953 and was located in Paradise Valley behind the strip hotels. Brown stated that he would sell it to the city for the same price he paid for it provided it was agreed that no gambling would be allowed on the site other than horse race betting.


Joe W. Brown was instumental in getting the first Las vegas Convention Center opened.
A year later, in January of 1956, the deal was completed. Many of the bondholders and creditors of the doomed project were paid at less than full value of their liens. However, due to Brown's actions, the amounts they received were greater than had been previously thought they could get. Brown had bought a million dollars worth of the bonds for the project during the past year at substantial discount when it appeared they were not even worth face value.
Eventually the site that he purchased would be opened as the new convention hall after Brown's death in 1959.
In May of 1955 The Horseshoe Club and Joe W. Brown were defendants in a lawsuit brought by John Arthur, a New York resident, who operated “Believe or Not” displays around the country. The suit was over the rights to the idea of the “Million Dollar Display”. Arthur maintained that he copyrighted the idea on July 21, and August 21, 1953, and had filed a trademark with the Nevada Secretary of State. He asked for the court to award him all the profits from the display and $500,000 in damages.
Two years later, on March 27, 1957, the legal fight had moved into the district court of Judge Frank McNamee who dismissed the suit against Brown saying that John Arthur had failed to prove that Joe W. Brown had taken the idea of displaying the million dollars in the casino from Arthur. 
Another venture of the colorful Joe W. Brown was oil drilling exploration in the Las Vegas area in October of 1958. He brought in a crew from Bakersfield, CA to drill the deepest exploratory hole in the area to date- at least 7,500 feet.  In a later article in said that the venture failed to produce any oil.
The Apache Hotel was leased by Joe W. Brown from P. O. Silvagni on March 11, 1958 for more than $6,000 a month.

Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club, bar and restaurant occupied the ground floor of the 99 room three story hotel.

Brown also bought all of the hotel furnishings and planned an extensive remodel of the hotel including enlarging the casino and the restaurant.

Silvagni had built the hotel in 1932 and had been its operator since then.

Just five months after he had leased the Apache Hotel and started the expansion of the Hourseshoe, Joe W. Brown was stricken with a sudden heart attack.

It was on a Saturday afternoon, August 30, 1958 while in his suite at the Apache Hotel.  He was rushed to Southern Nevada Memorial Hospital in critical condition.

He became ill only a few hours after negotiations to sell off his interest in the Horseshoe Club and adjacent interests to the owners of the Fremont Hotel had taken a break for the Labor Day weekend. This had been his second heart event in a single week as friends had said he had “a minor seizure” on the Thursday before. (Aug 28, 1958)

     The Fremont Corporation became the owners of the Horseshoe Club and assumed the lease on the Apache Hotel later in September of 1958. The actual transfer of the property hinged on the gaming commissions  approval of license changes.

On Sept. 25, 1958, the gaming control board granted operators of the Fremont Hotel and Casino permits for emergency participation in the operation of the Horseshoe Club.

     On October 23, 1958 the commission approved licenses for 16 of the 17 men who were taking over the Horseshoe club from Joe W Brown for $1,120,00.

Ten of the men were already licensed for the Fremont Hotel which was across the street from the Horseshoe in downtown Las Vegas.  This group was headed by Ed Levinson who invested $193,000 in the Horseshoe.

The others who were approved for small interests were: Fred and Robert E Ayoub, Fritz F. Gersich, Lawrence M. Knight all of Las Vegas and Harry E Wrest of St. Louis. None of the latter men held any interests in the Fremont. 
Leo D. Durr's application for 5% of the Horseshoe was on hold because the investigation into his background was not yet complete.
Joe W. Brown was only 61 when he passed away at his suburban New Orleans home on Sunday, February 15, 1959 after another in a series of heart attacks, the last of which he had suffered on February 2, 1959. 

Joe W. Brown was born Oct 5, 1897 and was survived by his widow Dorothy Dorsett Brown and his niece Mrs. J. C. Trahan of Las Vegas.

Joe W. Brown and his wife, Dorothy Dorsett Brown, were known during their lifetimes as philanthropic people. Before Joe's death most of their donation's were done anonymously. You can read more about their charitable work at the link below.

Portrait from the
Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation.

The Joe W. and Dorothy Dorsett Brown Foundation is a private, philanthropic foundation established in 1958. With its mission: To alleviate human suffering, the Brown Foundation is highly involved in funding medical and environmental research; housing for the homeless; organizations who care for the sick, hungry or helpless; religious and educational institutions; and organizations and groups concerned with improving our local communities.
On March 12, 1957 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Benny Binion, and New York Mobster Frank Costello should be admitted to bail pending appeals of their unrelated income tax evasion convictions. Binion had been sentenced in 1953 and had been serving time in Leavenworth federal prison. 

By March 25, 1957, Binion had returned to his Las Vegas home for a reunion with his family after posting a $25,000 bail bond. Upon his return home Binion said,
“My only immediate plans are to take care of my Montana ranch and visit my family I do plan a trip to Arizona next week to see about buying a string of cattle”

His Friend Joe W. Brown still owned and was operating the Horseshoe.

I have broken out the Horseshoe Clubs by owners/operators/era.
You can click on the links below to go to those pages.

Benny Binion's Horseshoe Club

1951 to 195

3 and 1958 to 1964


Joe Brown's Horseshoe Club

195

3

to 19

58


Binion's Horseshoe

19

64

to 200

5


Binion's Gambling Hall
2005 to present

A note about the dates above. You can
find a wide variety of dates that either agree
or contradict these dates. I used dates from
the best records I could find and from
newspaper and gaming commision reports
of the time.  In other words, everyone has
their own opinion! Enjoy!



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Sources you might want to visit for more information include: 
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TCR numbers are used by express permission of SSS Publishing publishers of The Chip Rack.

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