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Best of Sean Whaley

Gaming Guru

Sean Whaley
 

Trump Won't Disclose Nevada Plans

20 February 2004

CARSON CITY, Nevada -- Almost two decades after he first showed an entrepreneurial interest in the state, New York developer and casino owner Donald Trump obtained a Nevada gaming license Thursday

"We've been waiting a long time for you to join us in the dance," said Gaming Commission member Augie Gurrola. "Now we can let the music begin."

Trump won unanimous approval from the commission, but said after the brief licensing hearing that he has no immediate announcement of his plans for Nevada and Las Vegas.

"We are looking at different plans, and we have great plans for the state," he said. "We will be coming forward with them in the near future."

In response to questions from the commission, Trump said it is questionable whether his first investment in Nevada will involve New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin and his 40-acre site on the Strip.

"I give that a chance, not a great chance," he told the commission.

After the meeting, Trump said Ruffin is a friend but that Ruffin has to make the best deal for himself.

"Phil has got a good property," he said. "If he does something faster with someone else, that would be OK."

Harrah's Entertainment has also been suggested as a possible joint-venture partner with Ruffin for the New Frontier property.

Trump also said it is unlikely that his first investment will involve the Riviera.

"The honest answer is probably not," he said. "I don't think so."

Trump and his companies, Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts and the THCR Holding Corp., were required to be licensed by gaming regulators in Nevada after he purchased 358,000 shares of Riviera parent Riviera Holdings Corp.

Trump said he bought the shares to go through the lengthy licensing process.

Trump said his first investment in Nevada could be real estate instead of gaming, but that eventually a gaming project will be part of his holdings in the state.

Trump said he is definitely interested in building a Trump Tower condominium project in Las Vegas.

Any investment Trump makes in Nevada will be bolstered by a new $400 million investment in the company by DLJ Merchant Banking Partners III, an affiliate of Credit Suisse First Boston. The company also intends to change its name to Trump International Corp.

The deal, which has not been completed, would make DLJ Merchant Banking the majority shareholder of Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts. Trump will continue as the chairman of the company's board of directors and he will continue to hold a large share of the company stock.

"I'm a major stockholder in the company," Trump said.

Published reports of Trump's imminent arrival in Las Vegas date back to 1986, when then-Review-Journal columnist Ned Day said the developer had tried to acquire land at the southwest corner of Spring Mountain Road and the Strip from the Summa Corp., now known as The Howard Hughes Corp.

That site instead was purchased by Trump's longtime rival, Las Vegas casino developer Steve Wynn, who opened The Mirage there in 1989, followed by the adjacent Treasure Island four years later.

Trump said Thursday his relationship now with Wynn is good.

"My relationship, as you know, has been very good with Steve," he said. "We speak often. He called me a few days ago, I called him a few weeks ago. I like his project very much."

Trump operates a casino near Palm Springs with the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Luiseno Mission Indians. His gaming empire is primarily in New Jersey with the Trump Plaza, Trump Marina and Trump Taj Mahal hotel-casinos in Atlantic City. He also has a hotel-casino in Indiana.