Phil Ruffin Readying His Las Vegas Casinos to Reopen May 15, Odds Long It Will Happen

Posted on: April 23, 2020, 03:05h. 

Last updated on: April 23, 2020, 03:57h.

Billionaire Phil Ruffin plans to reopen his Las Vegas casinos, Treasure Island and Circus Circus, on May 15. But the odds seem long that gaming will be permitted to resume operations on that date.

Phil Ruffin Las Vegas casinos
Phil Ruffin, like every other casino owner in Las Vegas, wants gambling to get back up and running. (Image: Carrie Rengers/The Wichita Eagle)

On the Treasure Island website, the property says it’s taking reservations for stays beginning on May 15.

We will be monitoring the ongoing situation and following the advice of federal, state and local government and health agencies,” the website explains. “Treasure Island will work with all guests who wish to change or cancel their reservations, and provide full refunds to those with arrival dates during the closure.”

Ruffin, worth an estimated $3 billion by Forbes, bought Treasure Island from MGM Resorts amid the Great Recession in 2009 for $775 million. Today, the Strip casino is worth double that amount.

Ruffin Hits Rough Patch

Ruffin has made much of his fortune in Las Vegas. After becoming a multimillionaire in Wichita, Kansas, with a chain of convenience stores that pioneered the concept of self-serve gasoline, Ruffin decided to invest in the gaming industry.

In 1998, Ruffin acquired the New Frontier Hotel & Casino for $165 million. In 2007, just before the economic collapse, he sold the casino to Israeli billionaire Yitzhak Tshuva for $1.2 billion. He also holds a 50 percent stake in Trump International Hotel Las Vegas, a non-gaming residential and hotel complex.

Ruffin’s latest investment, however, isn’t currently paying off. Last October, Ruffin agreed to purchase Circus Circus from MGM for $825 million. The deal closed in December and was comprised of $662.5 million in cash and a $162.5 million note due in 2024.

Less than three months after taking ownership, Circus Circus was forced to shutter its operations on Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s (D) order that all nonessential businesses close to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Las Vegas Timetable

Circus Circus, like many other Las Vegas casinos, including all MGM Resorts properties, is accepting hotel reservations for arrivals on May 1. Sisolak’s order runs through next Thursday, April 30.

Few believe casinos will open May 1. And May 15 might be too optimistic, too. “We have not started a downward trajectory. So, I can’t give you a day,” Sisolak told the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week.

But I can tell you for certain some of the directives will have to be extended. We’re clearly not going to be opening up any gaming establishments, and some of the other businesses, we’re going to have to continue with the social distancing and the avoidance of large group gatherings and whatnot, regardless,” the governor added.

The Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) issued a series of reopening requirements each casino will need to take before resuming operations. The NGCB has compiled a list of 18 procedures that should, the agency says, “at a minimum, be considered and addressed.”

“The Gaming Control Board is committed to the safe reopening of Nevada’s gaming industry, and will assist licensees where needed to reopen as efficiently as possible while complying with applicable gaming statutes, regulations, and policies. A safe, thoughtful, and efficient resumption of gaming operations in this State will help both Nevada and its residents recover from this pandemic,” said NGCB Chair Sandra Morgan.