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Florida Seminoles Hard Rock may be getting a New Hotel in Tampa

The Florida Seminoles have a lot on their plate these days. Without a new Tribal/State Gaming Compact on the table, they could soon lose the right to offer blackjack games at their casinos. On the other hand, they could keep blackjack and save over $200 million annually if legislators take the right path. And with all this going on, the Florida Seminoles are now shifting their focus to the possible construction of a new hotel in Tampa.

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa, Florida is a pretty popular destination already. The hotel is already classified as a Four Diamond accommodation, and the casino’s 190,000 square feet of gaming space is ranked the 6th largest in the world. But with some potentially big changes in Florida’s gambling industry hovering on the horizon, the Florida Seminoles may be looking at this as an opportunity to expand and promote their brand, before the other shoe drops, so to speak.

On Wednesday evening, representatives of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino attended a meeting with the Hillsborough Aviation Authority. Their intention was to find out just how tall of a building they would be permitted to erect, if they do indeed choose to construct a new hotel.

The following day, the Florida Seminoles were granted approval to build a 16-story hotel spanning 1.2 million square feet.  The application specified that the prospective new hotel would include up to 573 rooms, restaurant and bar seating for up to 250, plus a spa and fitness center. Additional casino gaming space would be included, as well as a new parking lot that could hold up to 450 vehicles.

It would certainly seem that the group has put a great deal of thought and effort into planning for the new Hard Rock hotel, but all arrows point to a very tentative attitude towards the plan. “It’s unclear in terms of if and when and whether this may even happen,” said Gary Bitner, spokesman for the Florida Seminoles.

“What we presented to the airport authority was a ‘what if’ scenario in order to determine if the height requirement was even possible.” Bitner went on to explain that, if the tribe does decide to go ahead with the new casino hotel in Tampa, the approval from the aviation authority will be one hurdle they’ve already jumped.

Based on the enormous size of the Hard Rock Casino, its hotel is comparably underwhelming. The Seminoles recently added lavish, white-glove butler service to their list of amenities, but the current hotel only offers 244 guest rooms. Thus the addition of 500+ rooms in a second hotel tower does not seem extravagant in the least, and has been on the minds of the tribal community for years now.

However, more recent events may also have influenced the Florida Seminoles decision to seek approval. The tribe’s gaming compact with the state is set to expire on July 31, 2015, and there’s a new destination casino bill working its way through the House. If terms for a new compact are not reached by then, the tribe could lose its exclusive right to offer table games like blackjack in Florida.

Then again, if the new casino bill, HB 1233, makes it into the law books, Florida would make room for two commercially owned destination casinos. And if that happens, table games will surely be added to the list of legalized gambling activities in the state, giving the Florida Seminoles every right to continue offering such games. And with a bigger, better hotel alongside its already massive casino, the tribe would be much better aligned to compete with such rivals in the Sunshine State.

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