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LAS VEGAS-When does a savvy casino owner on the Las Vegas Strip think the market will have fully returned? Oh, about 10 years from now.

That’s the prediction of Phil Ruffin, the man who sold a tear-down on 35 acres there for $1.2 billion in 2007 and this past spring paid $775 million for Treasure Island. Ruffin, who also owns a piece of He the Trump International Tower here, made his prediction in an article he penned himself for the Las Vegas Sun that was published earlier this week.

By 2020, he says, the traffic count at the airport will be 45- to 50 million, thanks in part to an increase in foreign visitors and the market will have absorbed the 21,000 rooms that were added between January 2008 and January 2011–plus thousands more because the projects stalled during construction also will be completed, as will a couple of ones that were planned but never started. Room rates also will be much higher, he says.

“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,” he wrote. “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.”

One of Ruffin’s concerns is “the traffic problem from Southern California,” which will continue to grow over the next decade along with the need for [or don't] for a high-speed train connecting the two markets.

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

As for the buying and selling of Strip properties, Ruffin doesn’t expect to see a lot of additional consolidation. He expects Boyd Gaming and Station Casinos to be strong, individual players in the locals casino market and some of the big players like Harrah’s and MGM Mirage to have spun off some properties and ironed out their debt problems.

Another of his concerns is Downtown Las Vegas, which he believes will suffer just like downtowns across the country. “It’ll still be there, but it will be a downscale operation,” he predicts. “Downtown can’t possibly compete with the Strip, but that means there could be some real bargains there.”

For Ruffin’s full article in the Las Vegas Sun, click here .

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