Seminole Hard Rock casino unveils $75 million expansion
TAMPA - The recent opening of a major expansion at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino makes the gambling complex the sixth-largest in the world by some measures. It means more parking, more slot machines, more restaurants and a small room full of slots where smoking isn't allowed. "We never say we're done expanding," said Doug Hoppe, vice president of sales and marketing. The expansion cost the casino $75 million and adds 32,000 additional square feet — roughly half the size of a large Publix store — bringing total gaming space to 190,000 square feet.The number of slots expands from 4,200 to a little more than 5,000. A new parking garage increases parking from 3,700 spaces to more than 5,000, and there's a moving sidewalk that speeds the trip to the gaming floor. The number of poker tables won't change, but the number of table games like blackjack will grow from 94 to 110. With the added gaming space, the Seminole Hard Rock now ranks sixth among all casinos in the world based on the number of seats where people can sit to play slots, poker or other games. The complex also invested in new carpeting on much of the gaming floor and added a room with 71 slots for nonsmokers — though they still must pass through a smoking area to get there. A new bakery-themed restaurant called Rise opened a few weeks ago, offering pastries, cookies, custom sandwiches and soups in bread bowls. The casino held a massive job fair in April to fill 400 positions in gaming, restaurants, hotel operations, maintenance and security. Once finished hiring, the expanded casino will employ more than 3,500 people. A lack of hotel rooms remains a limit for the casino operations because the hotel has only 250 rooms. At one point several years ago, casino executives had planned a 22-story hotel tower with roughly 750 new rooms, but those plans were put on hold when the tourism market slumped. Already, the casino brings in 20,000 visitors a day, Hoppe said, with 30,000 on an especially busy weekend day. Probably 90 percent of visitors come within a two-hour travel radius, he said, so adding more hotel rooms would allow for more overnight guests from the much wider region.
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