Florida guv, Seminoles pimp $1.8b resort expansion as reward for okaying compact

TAGs: florida, Gov. Rick Scott, Seminole Tribe

seminole-hard-rock-guitar-hotelFlorida Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe have launched a public relations pitch aimed at garnering support for their $3.1b gaming compact.

On Monday, the Seminoles announced a $1.8b expansion plan for their marquee properties in Hollywood and Tampa. The tribe says the expanded venues will create thousands of jobs and become major tourist draws, but the expansion will only go ahead if the state legislature approves the compact the tribe and the governor signed in December.

In laying out the tribe’s expansion plan, Seminole Gaming CEO James Allen touted a 36-floor, 800-room hotel shaped like a guitar to complement a new Hard Rock café and four other new restaurants at the tribe’s Hollywood complex. The hotel will feature luxury cabanas that allow guests to walk straight from their rooms into a VIP pool.

Allen said the goal behind the project – which has an estimated completion date of summer 2018 – was to create “an integrated resort that’s not just about gaming.” Allen said the finished product would be an attraction to rival “not just anything here in the state of Florida, but Atlantis [in the Bahamas] and anything in the world.”

Allen also touted a second 500-room hotel tower and multiple new dining and retail options at the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa. All told, the expansion will create 19,452 jobs (4,867 of them permanent) plus 14,585 construction jobs. But again, only if legislators vote ‘aye’ on the compact.

Scott, who was on hand for the Seminoles’ public presentation, talked up the compact, calling it “fair to the state of Florida and it’s fair to the Seminoles.” Legislators discussed the compact at a Senate Regulated Industries Committee hearing last month but no vote was taken.

The 20-year compact would require the Seminoles to pay the state $3b over the initial seven-year period starting in 2017. In exchange, the tribe’s seven casinos would have exclusive rights to offer craps, roulette and other table games, while the tribe would be allowed to extend its former blackjack monopoly at five casinos to all seven.

In a bid to keep some of the other major stakeholders happy, the compact would allow the state’s pari-mutuel betting operators in Broward and Miami-Dade counties the option of adding blackjack to their slots operations at a later date. The tracks would also have the opportunity to drop the racing pretense entirely and just operate as gaming venues.

The Palm Beach Kennel Club would be allowed to add slots to its gaming mix and Miami-Dade county would be allowed one more slots license, although this property’s slots quota would be capped at 750. Some locals have suggested this is a bone thrown in the direction of Genting, who splashed out big time several years ago for a Miami waterfront property that’s currently sitting idle.

But horse- and dog-track operators and jai-alai frontons outside Broward and Miami-Dade would continue to be barred from adding slots to their racing operations. Pari-mutuel operators in these other counties are complaining that Scott’s compact is surrendering their future to ensure the Seminoles’ prosperity, so expect plenty of pushback from pols in the northern part of the state.


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