Phil Ruffin, the owner of Treasure Island, has bought a casino near downtown Florida in order to expand his gaming enterprise to the east coast. After Florida voters passed an amendment to the state’s Constitution last month that might stop new gaming developments from taking place in Florida, the Strip billionaire bought the Casino Miami, a 200,000-square-foot property.
The Voter Approval of Casino Gambling Initiative, or Amendment 3, was on the ballot in Florida on the November 6 election. The initiated constitutional amendment was approved by voters, giving them the right to authorize any casino expansion in the state; before the amendment passed, the state legislature was responsible for approving casino expansions.
Amendment 3 was written with the intent to give voters “the exclusive right to decide whether to authorize casino gambling in the State of Florida.”
Under the amendment, casino games, card games, and slot machines are designated as casino gambling, whereas pari-mutuel betting on dog racing, horse racing, or jai alai exhibitions are not. The measure doesn’t apply to any gambling on tribal casinos that have been established through compacts with the state.
The Seminole Tribe and Disney supported the amendment, which will make it more difficult to expand gaming in Florida, which will bump up the value of any existing gaming licenses.
As of 2018, casino games, card games, and slot machines were banned from non-tribal locations aside from two counties in Florida. Those two counties are Broward and Miami-Dade, and Amendment 4 in 2004 allowed voters to permit slot machines at pari-mutuel facilities that had been licensed and in operation during two years previous.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida had a compact with the Florida government that allows the tribe to operate blackjack at five different facilities through to 2015. In 2015 the Governor formed a new 20-year agreement with the Seminole Tribe. The new agreement added roulette and craps to the compact and gave them the exclusive right to offer blackjack.
As of right now there is no proposed legislation to legalize sports betting in Florida.
Casino Miami is one of only eight commercial casino properties in Florida. Last year, the commercial casinos produced $547 million in net gaming revenues, which was an increase of 17 percent compared to 2014.
Commercial casinos in Florida can only have a maximum of 2,000 gaming machines each and have to pay a yearly licensing fee of $2 million plus $250,000 for a regulatory fee that helps fund the state’s compulsive gambling program.
In a statement to Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday, Ruffin, 83, made the following comments about his latest acquisition:
“I look forward to entering the Miami gaming market through this acquisition. We have exciting plans for Casino Miami that we will be revealing in the near future.”
He did not disclose how much he paid for the casino, but in 2014, the property sold for $155 million.
The Casino Miami is on 21 acres of developable land and already has 1,023 electronic table games and slot machines. It also has a bar, live entertainment space, live jai-alai games, a café dining area, and simulcast betting. In 2017, the facility generated $68 million in gross gaming revenue and in the first 10 months of 2018, generated $60 million.
A spokesperson for Ruffin, Michelle Knoll, said that he intends to build a hotel on the property but didn’t give any further details. Knoll went on to say that Ruffin:
“Had been interested in the Florida gaming market for quite some time. When this property came available, he felt that it met his financial parameters for acquisition. This purchase became even more valuable with the Florida law that will seriously impair the issuance of future gaming licenses.”
Ruffin got into the Las Vegas Gambling industry when he paid $167 million to buy the New Frontier in 1998. He then sold the property for $1.2 billion in 2007, making Strip history. He then bought Treasure Island using some of that money in December 2008 from MGM Resorts International. He also owns half of Trump International Hotel in Vegas.
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