Trump Family and Phil Ruffin Consider $100 Million Casino in Las Vegas
Donald Trump has not owned a casino since Trump Entertainment Resorts declared bankruptcy and was sold in 2009, but that might not be the case for too much longer. Word surfaced this past weekend that the Trump Organization is in discussions with Las Vegas billionaire Phil Ruffin on a 50/50 split on a $100 million casino near the Las Vegas Strip.
The casino would be an addition to the non-gaming Trump Hotel Las Vegas, a 64-story building set back from the Las Vegas Strip. The Trump Hotel Las Vegas has a spotty history, mainly because it was opened in 2008, at the height of America’s economic recession.
Trump Hotel Las Vegas Profile
The Trump Hotel was opened as a residential property, but it had trouble finding enough residents. Today, it operates with half of its rooms owned by residents and the other half rented to hotel visitors. It is located close to the Fashion Show Mall, giving it a solid location for non-gaming tourists. For gamblers, it sits next door to Encore and back a bit from Wynn Las Vegas.
One block south of the Trump Hotel Las Vegas on the Las Vegas Strip is Treasure Island, which is owned by Phil Ruffin. Mr. Ruffin is an old friend of the Trump family. After nearly 30 years in the casino business, the Trumps have many friends in the gambling industry. Phil Ruffin and Steve Wynn are said to be the closest.
Building a casino at the property is apparently Phil Ruffin’s idea. Eric Trump, the 38-year old eldest child of Donald Trump, signalled his family’s interest in a 50/50 split with the Treasure Island owner. Eric Trump said Phil Ruffin “is one of our closest friends.”
He also indicated that, if Ruffin wants to build a gaming room at the Trump Las Vegas, that the Trump family “would certainly do it.”
Las Vegas Becomes GOP Central
If the Trumps get back into the gambling industry, their particular part of the Las Vegas Strip might become one of the strongholds of the Republican Party. Next to Phil Ruffin’s Treasure Island are the Palazzo and the Venetian Las Vegas, both owned by Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson. The Venetian is the corporate headquarters for Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the largest casino company in the world.
On several occasions in the past year, GOP presidential candidates have gone to Las Vegas to seek donations from Sheldon Adelson, who is expected to offer more than $100 million in contributions to Republican candidates in 2016. The Venetian was even home to one of the Republican Debates leading up to the primary season.
Sheldon Adelson has not yet said who he would support among the Republican candidates, saying a month ago that he wanted to see the results of the February elections. Adelson said he liked all the candidates and ultimately would support whoever won the GOP nomination. That increasingly appears as if it’s going to be Donald Trump.
Donald Trump’s Presidential Campaign
When Donald Trump declared his candidacy for the Republican Party’s nomination in June 2015, few gave him a viable chance to win that nomination. In his opening press conference, Trump made immigration his chief issue, saying he would build a wall at the southern border of the United States. He also insulted Mexican immigrants in his opening remarks.
That began a pattern. Trump also insulted the service of Vietnam veteran Sen. John McCain and all P.O.W.s when he said he has respect for the soldiers who don’t get captured. The former Atlantic City casino owner said he would call a halt to immigration to the United States for Muslims, at least until a new national policy could be formulated.
Most pundits expected such wide-ranging insults would sink his candidacy, but Donald Trump has tapped into the anger of Republicans in 2016. Though he is criticized for his vague, impressionistic style of communication, he has impressed his followers with the appearance of strength and resolution. He often says he’ll make American win again.
Donald Trump on Gambling’s Decline
Whether Donald Trump would be interested in helping Las Vegas’s gambling industry win again is uncertain. In 2014, he indicated a disinclination to return to the gambling industry. He said of Atlantic City and the east coast gambling industry in 2014, “There’s just too much competition. Ultimately, everybody’s going to do badly because they’re looking at casinos as a panacea.”
That was about Atlantic City’s decline as a regional gaming destination, but it describes much of the American gambling scene in 2016. Las Vegas is one of the last places it might not apply, though. It sits in a bubble of isolation, surrounded by neighbors like
Las Vegas Gambling Bubble
Utah, Arizona, Oregon, and Idaho which have few (or no) casinos. Those which exist tend to be tribal casinos, which offer different forms of gambling in certain cases. Though California has a sustantial casino industry, it also is by far the most popular US state and has a massive tourist industry. So does Las Vegas, with 41 million visitors in 2015.
While 2007 was the peak year for Las Vegas gaming revenues ($12.7 billion), the numbers of the past few years remain close to those numbers ($11.1 billion in 2015). The growth is nonexistent over the past few years, but the non-gaming revenues continue to climb. Las Vegas appears to be a good investment, which is why a joint $100 million investment by Phil Ruffin and Trump family could be a smart move.
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