Could a Vegas casino be on the cards for Trump?

Casino Review - Trump Las Vegas
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A new casino just off the Las Vegas Strip could be in the works, built by the Trump Organization and the president’s billionaire business partner Phil Ruffin.

 

There is increasing media speculation that Phil Ruffin, operator of the Treasure Island Hotel and Casino and the Trump Organization, are considering adding a casino to their Trump International Hotel Las Vegas property.

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With four acres of land a short walk from Las Vegas Boulevard, President Donald Trump and his business partner Ruffin have an opportunity to build a casino near one of the busiest parts of the Strip.

“The highest and best use for that would be a casino. I can’t talk to Donald about it. It would have to be Eric or Donald Jr,” said Ruffin in a recent Forbes interview. While in December Trump told his 17 million Twitter followers that he would do no new deals during his presidency, in a more detailed white paper released a month later, he prohibited only foreign partnerships, with domestic deals able to proceed, subject to vetting.

When construction of the Trump International Hotel began in 2005, the gold-coloured high-rise was conceived as a condominium tower. But the 2008 recession hit just as the building was completed, causing prospective condo investors to withdraw and leading the Trump Organization to shift its strategy and open the building as a hotel.

Although it is still possible to purchase a condo unit, Ruffin and Trump are said to be committed to retaining at least 300 condos, the minimum number of hotel rooms required to operate a casino in Nevada. But how long would it take for Trump to add a casino to the building, and could it be built and open before Trump finishes his first term?

The answer partly depends, on two factors: how quickly the owners and key employees – Trump, his sons and Ruffin – could be licensed for gaming in Nevada and in what timescale they could obtain the permits and permissions needed to begin construction.

The fact that Trump is president would not technically prevent him from holding a gaming licence. While Nevada gaming regulations, specifically Regulation 11, state that state government employees and politicians cannot hold a gaming licence, this does not address federal officeholders.

Despite this, Regulation 11 could be used as a policy guide if a federal politician were to apply for a licence, says A.G. Burnett, chairman of the Nevada Gaming Control Board, which regulates gaming in the state alongside the Nevada Gaming Commission.

“It’s rare that we have someone who is an elected official asking for gaming approval,” Burnett said. “[The regulation] says a gaming licence cannot be held by someone who holds office in the state of Nevada or any of its political subdivisions. So it wouldn’t address federal politicians. “But it might be looked to in terms of policy guidance if a federal public official applied for gaming licence.”

In addition to obtaining a gaming licence, Clark County, rather than the city of Las Vegas, would need to approve a special use permit and a development agreement. According to Dan Kulin, a spokesman for the county, this process requires developers to submit a traffic study and a RISE/PFNA report, which addresses the impacts the project would have on regional infrastructure issues and things such as water, sewer, fire and police services.

While it is technically possible that a developer could submit all their forms and applications and go before the County Commission in under six months, Kulin states that this “time frame is sort of a perfectworld scenario.”

In reality, it would likely take more time, since developers have to do their own internal scheduling, hire the firms to conduct specialised engineering studies and respond to any requests or questions the county has about the project.


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