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July 29, 2014

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2020 Vision:

Phil Ruffin: Strip will remain king, but downtown will suffer

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Tiffany Brown

Phil Ruffin

I bet three-quarters of a billion dollars that things will be good on the Las Vegas Strip by 2020, so I hope I’m right.

I figure the Strip is going to continue to be the place in Las Vegas, and there’s only one Las Vegas so people from around the world will continue to come here. The traffic at the airport will be 45 million to 50 million people a year and by 2020, all the room inventory will be absorbed.

Fontainebleau will be open and operating as will Echelon. Somebody will develop the property I used to own, the Frontier site, either the current owner or somebody else because the location is just too good to stay dormant.

MGM Mirage and Sol Kerzner had a magnificent plan for a joint venture on 40 acres at Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard. I think a major resort will be on that site in 10 years.

With all the rooms absorbed, rates will go up and in 10 years, substantially higher than they are.

I’m a little worried about whether we’ll solve the traffic problem from Southern California. It’s a long drive from California to Las Vegas and I think people will continue to want to come here in their cars.

As the populations of California and the Las Vegas Valley continue to grow over the next 10 years, we’re going to have to deal with a lot more traffic here.

I’m not sure if a train will ever get built. I would love to see it, but I just don’t know how that would be funded.

I think international traffic is going to grow and far more people will visit from overseas.

One area that could suffer is downtown Las Vegas. It’s been tough for downtown areas across the country and I don’t think ours will be an exception. It’ll still be there, but it will be a downscale operation. Downtown can’t possibly compete with the Strip, but that means there could be some real bargains there.

Technology will continue to advance and it’s hard to predict what the casino floor is going to look like in 10 years. It’s all pretty upscale now and it’s possible that slot floors will be remade three or four times by 2020.

Internet gambling probably will be legalized by then. I’m not personally in favor of that, but if they can find a way to tax it, it will be legalized. I don’t think Internet gambling will hurt the casino industry. It will probably educate more people about gaming, but the people will still come. You can’t go to our shows on the Internet.

I think the locals market will come back strong and that Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos will be key players. Boyd is a great operator, and Station has some great locations. Both of them will be just fine.

I don’t see a lot of consolidation on the Strip, but some of the big players may spin off some properties. By 2020, Harrah’s and MGM Mirage will have their debt problems ironed out because they’re both led by some really smart people.

Phil Ruffin is the owner of the Treasure Island and co-owner of Trump International Tower, Las Vegas.

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