Florida Vegas - Gaming in the Sunshine State
The Seminole Hard Rock Casino, Tampa
There are no traces left of the old Seminole bingo hall at Tampa’s Hard Rock Casino. The current 190,000-square-foot casino, the sixth-largest in the world, has the newest slots and almost all the table games any gambler could want. It’s not Las Vegas, but it’s no longer a bingo hall, either. The casino, owned by the Seminole Tribe of Florida, is built on their Tampa reservation, replacing the bingo hall that first opened in 1981.
A few of the older bingo-based machines are sprinkled throughout the casino, played by gamers who don’t realize they’re not playing the “Las Vegas style” machines, or who want to play on the old style machines, or who don’t know the difference since the machines look pretty much the same except for the bingo numbers in a box above the screen on the bingo-based games.
Las Vegas style slots pit player against the house so the payout is the same regardless of the number of people playing the machines. Payouts on bingo-based games are determined by the amount of money being put into the machines. It would be a logical assumption that current payouts on the bingo machines wouldn’t be as high as when the casino was all bingo-based and all money going in counted toward the payouts.
Because the Hard Rock Casino is the “only game in town,” slot and video poker payouts are generally tighter than in South Florida where gamers have more than one casino to choose from. The closest casino to Tampa is a three or four hour drive to the south.
The Hard Rock offers various dining options: steaks and seafood at Council Oak; Mediterranean-inspired food at Grey Salt; 24-hour meals in Rise Kitchen & Bakery; themed buffets at Fresh Harvest; burgers and entertainment at the Hard Rock Cafe; fast food in the Food Court; and two Asian options - Rock 'N Raw, the Sushi Joint and Jubano Palace Noodle Bar. Food is priced according to the option; quantities are generous, and Players Club cardholders can redeem comp dollars at most restaurants.
The casino is busiest Friday and Saturday nights as well as during most holidays; slowest times during the weekend are from about 4 a.m. to around 10 a.m. Entertainment ends around 4 a.m. in the Hard Rock Cafe and at the other bars throughout the casino floor. As the crowds thin out, the casino staff begins servicing the various gaming machines, replacing full money boxes with empty ones.
Tour buses, coming from as far away as Valdosta, Georgia, help generate business during the middle of each day, charging a fee that is usually given back in casino free play and meal vouchers. Tour buses generally arrive mid-morning and depart late afternoon. Most of the bus passengers appear to be retirees.
The casino has over 4,000 slot machines with denominations from $.01 to $100 per credit. Many of the machines build up large progressive jackpots but claiming the jackpots mean betting maximum credits which, even on penny machines, can add up to quite a bit.
Video poker machines are available in denominations from $.25 to $25 per credit. As with the regular slots, jackpots are only paid on maximum bets which are usually five credits per play.