St.Petersburg Times-Seminole Casino
St. Petersburg Times
Tuesday, January 9, 2001
Hard Rock, Seminoles plan two casinos
At a ceremony featuring 500 guests and a 15-foot-long guitar sand
sculpture, officials of Hard Rock Cafe International and the Seminole
Tribe of Florida on Monday announced a $400-million plan to build
casino-hotels in Hollywood and Tampa.
The Hard Rock Cafe, which already operates a 350-room hotel-
casino in Las Vegas, believes Vegas-style gambling may one day be
available at its new Florida facilities, thanks to its partnership
with the 2,500-member Seminole Tribe.
"The Seminole Tribe has done a terrific job in Florida with its
gaming facilities," said Jim Biggar, Hard Rock Cafe's senior director
of hotels. "I think it's going to be a great partnership.
"We're hoping in the future that Class III games (Las Vegas-type
gambling) will be possible."
The tribe currently offers only small-stakes poker, high-stakes
bingo and electronic slot machines at its casinos in Hollywood,
Coconut Creek, Immokalee, Brighton and Tampa.
Gov. Jeb Bush, following the sentiment behind three failed casino
referenda, has opposed any compact allowing the Seminoles to offer
Class III games such as roulette and blackjack.
The Seminoles are betting that new rules from the U.S. Department
of Interior will allow Class III games anywhere on reservation lands,
including inside the proposed 750-room Hard Rock Cafe Hotel-casino on
U.S. 441 in Hollywood and the planned 200-room Hard Rock Cafe hotel
off Orient Road in Hillsborough County.
Hard Rock Cafe, purveyor of American cuisine and non-stop rock
music in its 105 restaurants worldwide, broke ground on the Hollywood
facility Monday morning and expects to finish the Broward and
Hillsborough projects in the last quarter of 2002.
In Hollywood, the project will include the hotel, casino, a 1,000-
seat venue for live music, a health spa, an independent restaurant, a
beach club with an extensive bar and a Hard Rock Cafe retail store.
On the Seminoles' Tampa reservation, the Sheraton Four Points
Hotel - and ultimately, the existing casino - will be demolished to
make way for the hotel, a new gambling facility, a large pool with
pool bar, a parking facility and a 24-hour restaurant.
The projects will be undertaken by the Cordish Co., a Maryland
firm responsible for much of the waterfront redevelopment in
Baltimore. The company also has specialized in casino area
redevelopment, including a $200-million retail and entertainment
project in Atlantic City and a contract to revitalize a 32-block area
in downtown Reno, Nev.
The Hard Rock Cafe groundbreaking in Broward County on Monday took
place on a 60-acre site known until a few weeks ago as the
Candlelight Mobile Home Park. Last year, the tribe evicted about 200
permanent residents on notice ranging from 30 to 45 days.
Because Florida law normally requires a year's notice, the tribe's
eviction action brought a lawsuit seeking $5-million in damages. The
suit is still pending. In fact, Candlelight attorney Louis St.
Laurent, rebuffed at attempting to serve Seminole Chairman James
Billie previously, sent a process server to the groundbreaking to try
to serve Billie with the suit Monday.
The process server was kept out, but later managed to serve the
suit on Tribal Attorney Jim Shore, St. Laurent said.
"I think what they did to these residents - they ought to be
charged with criminal fraud," St. Laurent said Monday. "Some of these
people, the elderly and the ill, didn't really have the means to get
to another place."
Calls to tribal administrators were not returned Monday.
The tribe was less successful in forcing the owners of the
property used by the First Seminole Indian Baptist Church to sell and
make way for the Hollywood casino-hotel project. The North American
Mission Board, an arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, owns the 27-
acre church site and refused to sell, especially if the site were to
be used for gambling.
Monday evening, Mission Board officials were surprised to learn of
the Hard Rock Cafe groundbreaking, but said their stance had not
"We told the tribe the property is not for sale," said Martin
King, director of public relations for the Mission Board. "The
property is still not for sale."