More than 1,500 employees at Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino are about to get a raise, thanks to a $100 million ante from the gaming mecca’s owners.
Hard Rock International and Seminole Gaming announced Monday that it’s boosting the salaries of thousands of employees nationwide as part of a bid to attract and retain workers by bringing minimum wages above those at both the state and federal level.
The raises will apply to nontipped employees, from cooks and housekeepers to security and call center workers. Most hourly wages in those roles will start at $18 to $21 per hour, well above Florida’s minimum wage of $10.
Jim Allen, the CEO of Seminole Gaming and chairperson of Hard Rock International, called the raises a “one-time gesture” that could double some employees’ yearly cost-of-living increases, amounting in some cases to an annual raise of more than $16,000.
“The most important asset we have is our employees, and in today’s environment, we just felt it was truly the right thing to do to help enhance their standard of living,” Allen said. “Business has done well, it’s grown very nicely for the tribe, and we just felt it was the right thing to do.”
There are about 57,000 Hard Rock employees worldwide, around 37,000 of whom work directly for Hard Rock International; the rest work for franchise operations, such as the Hard Rock Cafe at Tampa International Airport. These raises apply to Hard Rock employees in the United States.
The 1,500-plus Tampa workers getting raises are more than at any other Hard Rock property. Overall, more than 4,000 work at Tampa’s resort, said Hard Rock spokesperson Gary Bitner, though he declined to give an exact number, saying it fluctuates due to the amount of vendors, lessees and part-time workers.
Nationwide, the median hourly wage for all gaming industry employees was $14.43 in May 2021, the most recent period for which data is available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The median hourly wage for workers in the lodging and food services sector, both tipped and nontipped, was $19.04 in July.
In Florida, the minimum wage for tipped workers, such as bartenders and waitstaff, is $6.98, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. Those employees aren’t included in this salary bump, Allen said, because the tips earned by dealers and other casino-floor employees can be huge.
“Many of these jobs, the tip rates are $30, $40, $50, $60 per hour,” he said. “Those employees are already doing very well.”
More and more, larger corporations like Hard Rock are boosting salaries for some positions to $20 or so per hour as they try to retain qualified workers, said Matt Becker, a former White House liaison to the U.S. Small Business Administration who owns Tampa temporary staffing firm PrideStaff. In Florida, anyone not making at least $15 per hour is “going to struggle,” Becker said.
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“They have to do it due to inflation, or people just aren’t interested,” Becker said. “When you look at your food prices and how much they’ve gone up, you can see how this type of raise that the Hard Rock’s doing has a material impact on the people that are working for them. It’s a great move by the Hard Rock, but it’s also a necessary one.”
This isn’t the first time the Hard Rock has raised the stakes with new hires. In May 2021, the resort offered $300 signing bonuses to workers hired at a job fair in Tampa. At a similar event this spring for a new casino in Bristol, Tennessee, the Hard Rock upped that bonus to $2,000.
Allen said hiring is easier now than it was a year ago. But there are still around 1,600 open positions around the company, including 250 in Tampa. This raise targets some of the roles that have been hardest to fill, including security workers, cage cashiers and other jobs that can’t be performed remotely.
“COVID really changed the workforce’s perception of those types of jobs,” he said. “It has come back. It’s certainly nowhere near as challenging. But it was frankly hard to open certain elements because of the shortage of help.”
Allen declined to say how long the Hard Rock and Seminole tribe had been discussing the raises. But he said employees were informed last week.
“When we let the housekeeping department know, I honestly don’t think there was a dry eye in the room, they were so ecstatic with joy and appreciation,” he said. “The response from employees has just been overwhelming. It’s absolutely amazing, probably the greatest thing I’ve ever done in my career.”