Billionaire casino mogul Phil Ruffin disputes that there was anything unusual about a multi-million dollar payment the Las Vegas hotel he co-owns with President Donald Trump made to the Republican candidate during the 2016 election.

The New York Times published a story Friday examining the one-time payment to Trump as part of its ongoing coverage of the president’s tax returns. The story asserted that Trump was in desperate need of cash as he self-financed his 2016 campaign.

The story builds on a 2019 Kansas City Star story in which Ruffin disclosed that the hotel made a $28 million payment to Trump in 2016 for back fees.

The New York Times story states that the total payment was $21 million based on Trump’s tax returns, but in an interview with The Star Friday, Ruffin continued to assert that the amount was $28 million.

Ruffin, who grew up in Wichita, said that the money was for licensing fees the hotel owed Trump as part of their joint venture.

“It was fees we owed him and the property owed him, and so he got paid. What he did with the money, I don’t know,” Ruffin said Friday. “It’s his money. … He accumulated over a 10-year period these fees and he didn’t ask for it until the property was paid off. It’s a straight deal.”

Ruffin first disclosed the payment in 2019 when Trump’s former lawyer, Michael Cohen, faced questions during a House Oversight Committee hearing about payments from a Kansas businessman.

Ruffin lives in Las Vegas, but maintains holdings in Kansas, including the Wichita Greyhound Park and the Woodlands racetrack in Kansas City, Kansas.

“It was branded a Trump hotel and Trump has value. These were fees that we agreed to when we built the damn thing,” Ruffin said Friday, disputing