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Seminole Hard Rock Casino Reopening May Be Just Weeks Away

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa has been closed since March 20 because of the coronavirus pandemic. A company official said Thursday it may reopen - with changes - in the next few weeks.
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

It may just be a matter of weeks until the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa reopens.

Jim Allen, the Chairman and CEO of the Seminole Tribe of Florida's gaming company, told Fox Business News on Thursday that they could open the doors on their Florida properties at the end of this month or in early June.

But a spokesman for the company's Tampa location told the Tampa Bay Times that all plans are tentative and no reopening date has been confirmed.

Whenever they do reopen, Allen said gamblers can expect to see changes because of the coronavirus. Slot machines would be turned off to create social distance.

“At a blackjack table, about half of our tables will have dividers, (maximum of) individuals four per table, and then another shield for the dealer," he said.

Allen also said they’ll be able to help meet some of those standards by likely setting maximum capacity at 50 percent when they first reopen.

He pointed out that even on a crowded night in pre-pandemic days, slot machine use at most popular casinos would peak at 70 to 75 percent.

“So we certainly have capacity in order to reduce the amount of individuals that potentially could cross the line of social distancing,” said Allen. “It may create a little bit of challenge with a specific [slot machine] that a guest may want, but I think overall we’ll be fine.”

The decreased capacity will be despite heavy turnout other Hard Rock casino locations around the country that have recently reopened have experienced. Allen said, from a business standpoint, they'll be watching what happens in the months after that initial response.

"Because I think after the initial pent-up demand is behind us, then the question is what's the frequency and available discretionary income to come [to] an entertainment facility, such as an integrated resort,” he said.

In March, Allen told CNBC it could take quite a while for the company to see any sort of sustained business.

“I think there's going to be a real challenge, especially here in the United States, as far as ramping the business back up, and frankly, we're planning on that taking at least a year,” he said.

Other safety measures will include hand sanitizer dispensers located throughout facilities and employees will be required to wear gloves and masks.

There has been discussion about using thermal body imaging devices to take guests’ temperatures, but Allen said they’re not sure how they’ll be used across the company.

“Those devices are anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000 apiece,” he said. “Our location like Atlantic City that has so many doors, you're talking hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Allen said that Hard Rock has properties in 76 countries worldwide, so they’ve been dealing with the coronavirus pandemic since January.

The company closed its six Florida casinos March 20 after taking some criticism for leaving them open after many other businesses had shut down. At the time, company officials said they wanted to protect the livelihood of their nearly 14,000 employees without jeopardizing public safety.

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Mark Schreiner has been the producer and reporter for "University Beat" on WUSF 89.7 FM since 2001 and on WUSF TV from 2007-2017.