With five million southwest Florida residents still without power following the weekend ravages of Hurricane Irma, the state’s casinos may have a new marketing tool: air conditioning. As triple-digit temps and stultifying humidity cripple repair teams and residents alike, the lure of AC may be greater than even that of winning money.
Not that casinos won’t be hoping to see plenty of seats filled once more, following the dramatic Cat 4 storm.
Just days after Hurricane Irma, once a Category 5 storm, pummeled its way up the western coast of Florida, residents are beginning to get back to some sense of normalcy.
Seminole Hard Rock Tampa was right in the direct path of Irma, but was largely spared from any major damage. The casino and hotel remains open for business, though some operations are limited due to staffing restraints.
Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen, who was at the tribe’s casinos in Hollywood and Coconut Creek this week, reported large crowds at both properties. He commended his staff for keeping the resorts up and running.
“We’re always proud of our staff, and their enthusiastic commitment to the tribe,” Allen told the Miami Herald. “But certainly this storm was a new challenge. They not only rose to expectations, they exceeded them.”
Getting Back to Normal
Nearly all of Florida’s major casino destinations have resumed operations, but there are some exceptions (see below).
On the east coast, Isle Casino Pompano Park, Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino, Seminole Coconut Creek, and Palm Beach Kennel Club have all reopened their doors following temporary Irma closures.
In addition to Seminole Tampa, on the Gulf side, the Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee is running normal operating hours. Seminole Brighton in the middle of southern Florida is also open.
Florida racinos likewise fared well with Irma. The Florida Thoroughbred Breeders’ and Owners’ Association reports minimal damage at tracks across the Sunshine State, and racing is scheduled to resume at certain facilities as early as next week. Parimutuel simulcast wagering is already back up and running at some tracks.
For an extremely powerful and catastrophic cyclonic storm that targeted southwest Florida, the general consensus is that the state couldn’t have hoped for much better. There was still loss of life, 31 at last count (including eight at a Hollywood nursing home), and the Keys were devastated. But much of Florida is returning to normal, and that didn’t seem likely in the week after Irma prior to the Category 5 making landfall in the US.
Not All Casinos Escape Irma
The majority of Florida casinos fared well during Hurricane Irma, but the Mardi Gras Casino in Hollywood wasn’t quite so lucky. The casino remains closed due to damage, and hasn’t provided a timeframe as to when it might reopen.
Mardi Gras’ damage highlights just how random a hurricane’s path can be. Just one mile away, the Gulfstream Park Casino was entirely spared by Irma.
Miami Gardens’ Calder Casino also remains shuttered due to more than 50 percent of traffic signals being nonfunctional, according to the casino’s website as of this writing.