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Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa to reopen Thursday

It is the first of Seminole Gaming’s six Florida casinos to reopen. Temperature checks and masks will be required.
Aerial view of an empty parking lot of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino due to COVID-19 closures pictured on Thursday, April 9, 2020 in Brandon.
Aerial view of an empty parking lot of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino due to COVID-19 closures pictured on Thursday, April 9, 2020 in Brandon. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]
Published May 18, 2020
Updated May 18, 2020

TAMPA — The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa announced Monday that it will reopen at 7 p.m. Thursday with a “safety-first mentality.”

The casino’s capacity will be reduced by 50 percent. Patrons running a fever will be turned away. All customers and employees will have to wear masks, with no exceptions.

“We are making sure our resorts are safe and sound so our guests and team members have peace of mind when they return,” Hard Rock International chairman and Seminole Gaming chief executive officer Jim Allen said in announcing the reopening.

Related: "We're anticipating very large crowds," Hard Rock chairman says. "We will be prepared for that."

That requires "a tremendous commitment to sanitary protocols and a safety-first mentality for both guests and team members,” Allen said.

It also means:

• Temperature checks at the doors for all guests and team members. Anyone with a temperature above the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s guideline of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit will not be allowed to enter.

• All patrons and employees will have to wear masks or cloth face coverings that meet CDC guidelines. If necessary, masks will be provided to guests.

• Thousands of the Seminole Hard Rock’s nearly 5,000 slot machines will be turned off to create social distance between players on the casino floor.

• New barriers will divide players at table games, poker games and customer service areas.

• 850 signs will encourage social distancing.

• More than 100 employees on a new “Safe and Sound Clean Team” will clean and disinfect surfaces, especially high-touch surfaces and those in common areas.

• Hand-sanitizing stations will be available on the casino floor, at entrances and throughout the property.

• An AtmosAir-brand ionization system will purify and disinfect air inside the building.

Restaurants such as the Hard Rock Cafe and Rise Kitchen & Deli will be open with social distancing requirements in place. Of the hotel’s 800 rooms, 200 will be available at first.

But there will be no events at the pools or at the new Seminole Hard Rock Event Center until further notice.

The Seminole Tribe closed its six Florida casinos on March 20, citing concerns about the health and safety of guests, many of them retirees old enough to be in the most endangered risk group for COVID-19.

Related: In Florida, 83 percent of coronavirus deaths are people 65 and older

The Seminole Hard Rock Tampa, the tribe’s flagship casino, with $1 billion in annual revenues, will be the first to reopen. Opening dates for the others have not been set.

State Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, who had called for the casino to close in mid-March, on Monday said the steps casino managers are taking now “will protect the population they serve and their staff.”

Toledo said in a text message to the Tampa Bay Times that she had called for the casino to close to help slow the spread of the virus and because she felt the casino was not taking necessary precautions while still encouraging customers to come. That’s changed, she said.

Today, she said, businesses ought to be able to reopen as long as they follow recommended guidelines to protect customers and workers.

“If I do hear of violations (to) their safety standards, then we will seek changes again,” she said.

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