Treasure Island Owner Phil Ruffin Buys Casino Miami Near Pal President Donald Trump’s Doral Resort

Posted on: December 5, 2018, 08:43h. 

Last updated on: December 5, 2018, 08:43h.

Treasure Island owner Phil Ruffin announced this week that he’s acquired Casino Miami, a slots and parimutuel betting venue in South Florida, for an undisclosed price. The seller is Fronton Holdings, LLC, a private company based in Miami.

Phil Ruffin Casino Miami Treasure Island
Phil Ruffin is betting on a slots-only casino in Miami. (Image: Fernando Salazar/The Wichita Eagle)

Casino Miami is located adjacent to Miami International Airport in Miami-Dade County, one of two counties in Florida along with Broward authorized to allow parimutuel facilities to house slot machines. The venue offers 1,000 gaming terminals and electronic table games, and also parimutuel wagering on live jai-alai and simulcast betting.

I look forward to entering the Miami gaming market through this acquisition,” Ruffin, 83, said in statement. “We have exciting plans for Casino Miami that we will be revealing in the near future.”

Slot machine licenses in Broward and Miami-Dade cost $2 million annually, plus a subsequent $250,000 fee that goes to programs preventing compulsive gambling. Gross gambling revenue from the terminals is taxed at 35 percent.

Perhaps most attractive to the billionaire businessman is that Casino Miami comes with 21 acres of land. The property is also just a short drive from Ruffin’s longtime friend President Donald Trump’s Doral golf resort.

Florida Gambling

Last month, Florida voters approved a ballot referendum that stripped state lawmakers of their power to decide future gaming-related issues. For the state to experience any sort of gambling expansion, it must now come by way of a citizen-initiated ballot question.

The amendment was pushed by a committee known as Voters in Charge. The Seminole Tribe and Disney collectively gave $44 million to the group, which counted for nearly of its funds. The tribe and entertainment conglomerate believe voters will be less likely to support gambling expansion than politicians.

Opponents to the question included several commercial gaming entities that wanted to enter the coveted Sunshine State. MGM Resorts, Las Vegas Sands, FanDuel, Station Casinos, and Ruffin are just some of the names that donated to the “no” vote campaign.

But with slot machines remaining confined to the two South Florida counties, commercial casinos banned, and house-banked games like blackjack and roulette reserved to the Seminoles, Ruffin is apparently jumping on the next best thing.

Funding Trump Reelection

Trump and Ruffin have long been both friends and business partners. The president served as Ruffin’s best man at his 2008 wedding to Ukrainian model Oleksandra Nikolayenko, who is 47-years his younger.

In 2005, Trump and Ruffin broke ground on Trump International Hotel Las Vegas. Ruffin and The Trump Organization each own 50 percent of the property.

Ruffin has been one of Trump’s most resilient financial donors since the former casino owner and real estate developer transitioned into politics.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Ruffin made four donations last year totaling $250,000 to the Republican National Committee (RNC). He also gave $95,400 to the super PAC Trump Victory.

The Treasure Island owner is also giving heavily to Republican congressional causes. Ruffin donated $500,000 to the Senate Leadership Fund, and $100,000 to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin).