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Seminole Hard Rock Still Dealing Hands Amid Coronavirus

Seminole Hard Rock building
Seminole Hard Rock Casino
Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa remains open with coronavirus spread.

Despite one Tampa Bay area politicians' calls for it to shut down for 30 days due to the danger of the oronavirus, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa remains open.

The resort has made some changes to combat the virus including closing their Rock Spa & Salon, poker room, and seven of their dining options.

Furthermore, they announced in a press release that Hard Rock Event Center shows and “Pool Parties” have been canceled or rescheduled.

“Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa is focused on the health and safety of our guests and team members,” Steve Bonner, president of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, said in the release. “As we align with recommendations from local, state and global health agencies and guidelines, we have made the decision to suspend entertainment on property until mid-April as a precautionary measure.”

However, the rest of the resort, including portions of its casino, remains open to the public.

They've stepped up cleaning through disinfecting common surfaces at desks, games and slot machines, restrooms, doorknobs, and elevators.

“As news on the COVID-19 develops, Seminole Hard Rock Tampa will continue its commitment to intensive cleaning of the resort, with special attention paid to high-touch services and use of multiple cleaning products, including a peroxide-based disinfectant that kills 99.9 percent of viruses and bacteria,” said officials. “For the convenience of guests, hand-sanitizing stations are available on the casino floor, at the entrances and throughout the resort.”

James F. Allen, CEO of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, also said in a message regarding COVID-19 that buffets will no longer have self-serve utensils, restaurants that are still open will have limited hours and close every other table, many slot machines will be turned off to give the distance to players, and that fewer seats will be available at table games.

READ MORE: Coronavirus Coverage On WUSF

However, even with all these changes, Florida House Representative Jackie Toledo feels the Hard Rock is not doing enough. She addressed the issue in a press conference Wednesday.

“I’m demanding that Seminole Hard Rock join with other businesses and close their doors for the next 30 days,” said Toledo. “Heed the advice of public health officials, protect your employees like Disney and Universal have, show you care about our community as much as you are showing you care about the bottom line.”

The Tampa Republican said she has doubts about the precautions the resort says are being taken to mitigate the spread of the disease.

“There are reports from inside that there have been no changes to cleaning procedures and that sick employees are not being sent home,” said Toledo. “These employees are being misled about the severity of the virus and its implications. This neglect cannot be tolerated.”

While the Tampa casino and its partner across the state, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Hollywood, remain open, other casinos throughout the state and country have closed.

In Florida, Tampa Bay Downs, Calder Casino in Miami Downs, theCasino at Gulfstream Park, theBig Easy Casinoin Hallandale Beach, and the Casino @ Dania Beach have temporarily closed.

Even in the highest stakes state of Nevada, the bright lights of the Las Vegas strip went dark. Casinos there and elsewhere in the state are shuttered temporarily after an initiative from Gov. Steve Sisolak.

However, at a Thursday press conference, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said that the Hard Rock properties are on sovereign land owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida. As a result, they do not have to follow what the state of Florida decrees. Miccosuke Resort and Gaming in Miami is offering gambling as well for the same reason.

DeSantis told reporters he has offered suggestions to the resort owners, and he claims they have followed them.

"They did implement my directions regarding bars and restaurants voluntarily," said DeSantis. "They've implemented a number of far-reaching social distancing measures for some of their other operations."

Toledo said Wednesday that both DeSantis and the federal government would have to take action. She added that she wants to flatten the curve of the public exposure to the coronavirus, adding that it's not just a public health issue, but a fiscal one as well.

“The more that large groups of people interact, the greater the likelihood that Florida will spend tax dollars to treat preventable exposure - money that can otherwise be spent on a more vulnerable member of our community,” she said.

“Do the proactive thing, get prepared, let your employees isolate and practice social distancing,” Toledo added. “Be a good neighbor and partner to the people of Florida and close your doors.”

Vanessa Henry is a WUSF/USF Zimmerman School digital news intern for spring 2020.
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