Ruffin keeps moving, this time into Florida, but will Trump slow him down? By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports December 10, 2018 at 8:00 pm Phil Ruffin was an enormously successful businessman before he entered the competitive Las Vegas gaming scene with the acquisition of the Frontier Hotel & Casino and subsequent purchase of the Treasure Island. He was a successful Strip casino operator before he entered into a development partnership with future President Donald Trump to create the shimmering Trump International tower in Las Vegas. And he’s a favorite to succeed as he adds a Florida gambling complex located a short ride from Miami International Airport to his billionaire’s portfolio. At 83, he’s a big winner by any reasonable measure. But with the growing controversy surrounding the president and his scandalized administration, a focus by federal prosecutors on the far-flung movements of Trump’s advisors, intimates and influencers, it makes me wonder whether all Ruffin’s success will be tarnished by his relationship with the Train Wreck-in-Chief. It seems counter-intuitive. Casino bosses have spent more than a generation seeking acceptance at the highest levels of government. Not so long ago, a trip to the White House and a seat at the big table of power would have been unheard of, but no more. With Trump’s rise has come a warm embrace for casino kings such as Ruffin, the now-scandalized Steve Wynn, and especially the GOP megadonor champion of Israel Sheldon Adelson. While Wynn sold out of his own company after multiple allegations of sexual harassment and worse, and Adelson’s political ventures have been costly and remarkably unsuccessful, Ruffin has navigated stormy skies seemingly without incident. With Casino Miami, Ruffin finds himself with a potential home run in a state that offers plenty of wagering but has remained averse to full casino legalization despite heavy lobbying. With 21 acres, it has a footprint capable of growing along with any political changes that might come its way. As fortunate would have it, Casino Miami is a few club lengths – 5.3 miles, actually – from Trump National Doral Miami. Between the two on Northwest 36th Street (Florida State Road 948) is Miami International Airport. Now that’s a fortuitous location since both have their own private luxury jets. Ruffin is a 50-percent partner with Trump in the Las Vegas property, and donated six figures to the Republican National Committee and stacks of cash to various PACS, but I think his influence in the president’s tumultuous life may be far greater than financial. He may be one of the few stabilizing figures still standing on the Forever Trump team. The two are so close, in fact, that Trump used Ruffin’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet in a much-scrutinized November 2013 flight to Moscow Russia for the Miss Universe Pageant. At the time, Trump’s own jet was flying the opposite direction from North Carolina to New York, according to published reports. Trump’s arrival at his pageant, his short stay in Moscow, and his attempts to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin have been a focus of a multi-level federal investigation and the source of much speculation in the press. “I do have a relationship with him,” Trump enthused later. Whether the president remains as enthusiastic with his Putin alliance less than two years in office is harder to say. Although the pageant was financed by a Putin-allied billionaire, Trump, it’s been reported, collected a $20 million fee. As the federal investigation led by Special Counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller into Russian interference into the 2016 United States elections and related criminal matters continues, Trump’s relationships with his high-flying friends in the casino business and elsewhere promise to get more complicated. For his part, casino billionaire Phil Ruffin clearly shows no signs of slowing down. Contact John L. Smith at email@example.com. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.