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Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino - Hollywood

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Seminoles hope $410M Hard Rock complex resonates with guests

The Seminole tribe's current casino in Hollywood looks more like a Costco than Caesar's Palace, but Tim Jacques likes it anyway.

A handyman in Hollywood, Jacques goes once or twice a month, but says he'd go daily if he had the money.

On a recent night, the nickel bets Jacques was making at a flashing electronic terminal paid off $65 when five sevens aligned themselves across the face of a computer screen.

"When you win a jackpot it's a great feeling," said Jacques, 41, who says he won $28,000 last year at the Seminole casino but is down $4,000 or $5,000 this year. "It's something I do to get away from things," he said.

Since it started in 1979, the casino has made the 2,700-member Seminole tribe wealthy. Now, the tribe is about to extend its franchise with the opening on May 11 of the $410 million Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

The new complex will be an entertainment-rich environment, designed to capture patrons who will spend days, not hours, in proximity to the casino. It will also offer ancillary revenue streams to the tribe's so-called Class II gaming, which although popular in a state with no legal casinos, has limited appeal to serious gamblers.

"It's certainly not competitive with Las Vegas," said Scott Berman, hospitality analyst at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Miami.

Should the tribe have miscalculated about the appeal of Hard Rock, it faces some big bills. It owes investors at least $31 million for the next 30 years, debt service on the bonds sold to build the new facility.

That said, the Hard Rock will be a huge improvement over the shed-like casino the tribe has run for the past two decades. The new site north of the current one on State Road 7 will feature 100 acres of diversions.

Four acres alone will be devoted to a lagoon-type pool, with a lazy river water ride. There will be a dozen restaurants, shopping, a 6,000-seat concert hall, and a 500-room hotel, in addition to a 130,000-square-foot casino with 2,000 electronic terminals.

Tying it together will be a theme supplied by Hard Rock International.

Known for its ubiquitous T-shirts and rock memorabilia, Orlando-based Hard Rock is pushing into hotels to capitalize on its brand. That worked in Las Vegas, where the casino/hotel owned by Hard Rock founder Peter Morton appeals to a younger and different crowd than the hotels on the city's famous strip.

"Its an emerging brand, a little different, a little quirky," Berman said. "But it sells."

The Seminole hotel will be Hard Rock's seventh, including one opened last month at a sister resort run by the tribe in Tampa. It will feature a rotating collection of rock 'n' roll memorabilia, a feed of music television supplied to all Hard Rock venues, a merchandise store and other themed features.

Last week, crews hoisted a 57-foot-tall replica of a Jimi Hendrix guitar onto a platform at the casino's lobby entrance.

All of that gives the new facility a cachet that the old one couldn't hope for. But Hard Rock, a subsidiary of London-based Rank Group PLC, won't own or run anything except the Hard Rock Caf

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At least this one sounds like the complete package. I still don't understand how they can build a Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Tampa, without a Hard Rock Cafe.

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I've seen pics of this new hotel, and it's gonna be awesome! I can't wait! The existing casino will hopefully be demolished, because it is incredibly ugly and old.

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