[toc]Even in Las Vegas, where over-the-top properties are the norm, Trump International Hotel stands out from the crowd.
Aesthetically, when the sun hits it, the gleaming high-rise appears clad in gold. And because it’s set back at the northern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where large-scale buildings are virtually nonexistent, it seems separated from the other hotel towers bunched together to the south.
Flying into Las Vegas or walking northward on the Strip, visitors’ eyes can’t help but be drawn to the building and the 25-foot-tall letters that spell out “TRUMP” at its crest.
Interestingly, despite its Vegas location and its two owners’ history with gambling, Trump Hotel doesn’t boast a casino. But this might be changing.
A Trump-Ruffin project
The Trump International Hotel in Las Vegas is owned by Donald Trump and casino mogul Phil Ruffin. Each possesses a 50 percent stake in the property.
The two men are longtime friends (going back 25 years). Based on comments about a potential casino expansion project, they have the utmost confidence in each other.
Completed in 2008, the towering 1,282-room hotel cost an estimated $800 million and sits on land Ruffin owned for decades. With the financial crisis that same year, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The project nearly ended up in bankruptcy. But the two billionaires stuck it out, and the property is now in solid financial shape.
The proposed casino would be a new construction in an adjoining parking lot attached to the existing hotel.
Making the case for a casino
Once a person passes Wynn and Encore and before he or she gets to Stratosphere, there isn’t much in the way of resort casinos on the Strip — or much of anything really.
The addition of a casino at Trump Hotel would expand the gaming footprint of the Strip northward. It inhabits the land opposite Wynn and Encore (but it’s closer to Sammy Davis Jr. Drive than the Strip itself), just after the Fashion Show Mall. Trump Hotel is just north of Ruffin’s Treasure Island (TI) casino.
The dearth of casino gaming in the area isn’t for lack of trying. Several recent projects in the area have been delayed, such as Genting’s Resorts World Casino, or outright abandoned, as was the case with Crown Casino’s Alon project.
But Ruffin is bullish on Las Vegas in general and sees an opportunity on the horizon.
In addition to the proposed casino at Trump International Hotel, he purportedly offered to buy The Mirage from MGM in 2015. Part of Ruffin’s enthusiasm could stem from Trump’s lofty infrastructural plans, which might include a high-speed rail between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, according to a recent Forbes column.
“He said [the LA-to-Vegas rail] sounds like a good deal, especially if it employs 80,000 people, but he didn’t carry it any further,” Ruffin told Forbes.
Is Trump Casino a presidential conflict of interest?
As for any potential conflicts of interest this project might raise, Ruffin stated, “We would benefit some, but there are a lot of hotel rooms here, a lot of places they can go.”
The addition of a casino to the Trump-Ruffin property isn’t a new idea. During last year’s presidential election, The Wall Street Journal reported preliminary talks were occurring. According to the WSJ, Ruffin is optimistic about the idea, and the Trump organization (now headed by President Trump’s children) has faith in Ruffin’s business acumen.
If he wanted to do [the casino], we would certainly do it,” Eric Trump told the WSJ in 2016. “[Ruffin] is one of our closest friends. We’re almost inseparable.”
Of course, the Trump brand is likely to ebb and flow with the President’s popularity.