Poker Playing Billionaire Casino Owner Phil Ruffin Buys Casino Miami

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Treasure Island Hotel and Casino owner Phil Ruffin is an enthusiastic poker player, one who has made appearances on High Stakes Poker and at the World Series of Poker over the years. Now, he’s looking to improve his hand in the business world by purchasing a new gambling facility in Florida.

Phil Ruffin Casino Miami
Phil Ruffin (center) and his wife Oleksandra (right) appear with Donald Trump (left) at the opening of the Trump International Hotel & Tower Las Vegas in 2008. (Image: Steve Marcus/Reuters)

Ruffin announced last week that he had purchased the Casino Miami, a facility near downtown Miami that features slot machines and electronic table games along with jai alai.

Ruffin Sees Value After Florida Amendment

In a statement about the purchase, the 83-year-old Ruffin didn’t say how much he paid for the property. However, the plan appears to be to develop what is now a fairly modest casino operation and turn it into a destination resort. With 21 acres of developable land, there’s plenty of room to build, and a spokesperson for Ruffin says that there are plans to build a hotel on the site.

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

Ruffin may have good reason for getting into the Florida gaming market right now. In November, Florida voters approved Amendment 3, which gives the public the final say on any further casino expansion in the state. Under the rules of the amendment, which was supported by the Seminole Tribe – which already owns casinos in the state – and Disney – which doesn’t want to tarnish the family-friendly reputation that draws tourism to Disney World – 60 percent of voters will need to approve any further gambling expansion.

“It’s been impossible to enter that market,” Ruffin told The Wichita Eagle. “There will be no more casinos in Florida without a 60 percent approval rating from the public. It’s almost impossible to get…of the seven casinos that are left, the value of their license jumped substantially.”

Cash Offer Wins Out for Ruffin

Casino Miami is already doing well for itself. According to data by the University of Las Vegas-Nevada, the facility brought in about $60 million in revenue through October of this year, about eight percent more than in the same period in 2017.

The previous owner was Fronton Holdings, which bought the property for $155 million in an auction in 2014. The company had been looking into selling the casino for some time now, but the fact that Ruffin was willing to pay in cash and had a vision to expand the facility made his offer the winner.

“It had a lot of hair on it…lawsuits and all kinds of things,” Ruffin told the Eagle. “I didn’t need financing, so we made an offer and got it.”

Ruffin may be better known for his friendship with President Donald Trump than for his poker prowess, and he hasn’t had any notable tournament poker success: he doesn’t even have a Hendon Mob database page to his credit.

However, he did make an impression during his appearance on the seventh season of GSN’s High Stakes Poker. The 83-year-old billionaire refused to be bluffed on several occasions, winning big in the process against played like Barry Greenstein, Vanessa Selbst, and Antonio Esfandiari.

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