Seminole Hard Rock’s older sister: It’s a Classic among locals

The Stage Bar, which has room for bands, is a new addition to Seminole Classic.
The Stage Bar, which has room for bands, is a new addition to Seminole Classic. Courtesy/Seminole Classic

It takes an average of 2 minutes, 18 seconds for a slot player to place a drink order at Seminole Classic casino, Larry Buck says. If you hit a major jackpot ($1,200) that freezes your machine, your average wait is five minutes, 30 seconds.

Those are the kind of details that matter to Buck, Seminole Classic’s general manager. The Seminole Tribe has revamped the oldest casino in South Florida, and one of the oldest casinos in the nation.

Back before casino gambling was legal in Florida, Seminole Classic Casino opened in 1979 as a bingo hall. As laws progressed in favor of Indian gaming, so did the property, which originally was known as Seminole Casino Hollywood.

Buck recently marked his fifth anniversary at the casino, which now goes by the name Seminole Classic Casino to differentiate it from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino just to the north. Both are on the west side of State Road 7, with Classic to the south of Stirling Road and the Hard Rock to the north.

Buck says guest service, atmosphere and experienced team members — about 125 have been there at least 10 years — attract locals.

“For emphasis, I refer to Classic as a ‘locals joint’ and I use the word ‘joint,’ like it’s your favorite neighborhood bar,” Buck says. “When I talk to our team members I often say ‘We want to be what Hard Rock is not. And they want to be what we are not.’

Larry Buck has been general manager at Seminole Classic for five years. He has overseen renovations that include a spot for a bar and live entertainment, and improvements in guest service, food options and air filtration. Nick Sortal

“Hard Rock is the better-known place with wonderful restaurants and amenities and we’re the more casual, comfortable neighborhood place. My hope is people prefer and choose one or the other, and the inference is we don’t want them to choose a competitor.”

Buck became especially focused on guest service when he himself, playing a racetrack casino slot machine, had to wait 18 minutes after hitting a jackpot. He also notes that there’s an altruistic reason for speed of service: If a player’s slot machine is locked up awaiting a jackpot payout, that’s time wasted when the guest could be playing and the casino could be making money.

Overall, Buck has great pride in his casino, which underwent annual improvements from 2013 through 2017. The most recent additions include a bar with live entertainment, an improved VIP slots area, better player tracking and a food court that includes burgers, Italian, Asian, deli and other fare.

“It’s not a place for sit-down meals, and it’s not a steakhouse,” he says. “It’s not intended to be. Buck uses the term “Good food served fast” and most items are made to order.

Seminole Casino Hollywood opened in 1979, and in the past decade changed its name to Seminole Classic. The casino, which has more than 125 employees who have worked there at least 10 years, is popular with locals. Courtesy/Seminole Classic

“It’s serving the need of our players. They want convenience and great service fast.”

Fearing they would cannibalize their own audience, the Seminoles considered tearing down Classic when their larger Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino opened in 2004.

“That was our original vision, but keeping it was one of the smartest decisions we ever made,” Seminole Gaming CEO James Allen once said during an event at Classic. “It’s truly a valuable part of our business.”

And business is better than you might think for the Hard Rock’s smaller, older sister. Recent figures show the casino took in about $163 million from its 1,000 slots, 40 table games and bingo last year. That beat out all the eight racetrack casinos in South Florida. (The Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach topped the field with about $153 million.)

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Columnist Nick Sortal AL DIAZ adiaz@miamiherald.com

Buck doesn’t reveal figures, but says that Classic’s guests like the improvements, and the revenue growth has been substantial since the latest renovations were completed earlier this year.

The place is especially jovial during the evenings, when live bands and DJs play at the Stage Bar near a blackjack pit, with big-screen TVs showing sports in the background.

“Locals remember Classic as ‘that old smoky chimney stack.’ They now say, ‘Wow, is this really Classic?’” he said. The casino improved the air conditioning which, Buck admits, doesn’t totally eliminate smoke, but puts the casino on par with the other Seminole properties. The Seminoles allow smoking; casinos at horse tracks and dog tracks are prohibited from indoor smoking because of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.

Winning matters, Buck says, but it is in some ways secondary.

“People don’t expect to win always, but they expect to win sometimes and if they’re not winning they expect to see other people winning. Most people come for their experience. For some, it’s an escape from daily life and others just want to get away and relax with their time,” he says. “So waiting 20 minutes for a drink isn’t a good experience.”

Coming up

▪ Danay Suarez, a four-time Latin Grammy nominee, plays a free show at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Hialeah Park’s Fountain Terrace. The Cuban Guys mobile unit will sell food. Suarez’s Palabras Manuales is up for Album of the Year, Best Alternative Song (“Integridad”), Best Alternative Album and Best New Artist.

▪ The casino hosts a free car and truck show from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. The event will also feature classic rock from the 1950s and ’60s spun by DJ Music Man. Food includes The Cuban Guys, Los Chamos, Coops Pit BBQ and Yummy Frozen Treats.

▪ Miccosukee Resort & Gaming gives away $500 on even-numbered hours from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday. The prize increases to $1,000 at 10 p.m.

▪ Casino Miami has a job fair from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. The casino is looking for cooks, security officers, maintenance staff and other positions.

▪ Calder Casino continues its NFL selection contest. Patrons can pick games for free from 9 a.m. Wednesdays through 10 a.m. Sundays and receive an extra set of picks after earning 25 slot points. The top 20 scores share more than $1,000 in free slot play.

▪ Magic City Casino offers bingo at 3 p.m. Sundays. Slot players who earn 50 points after 10 a.m. are eligible. The 10 games of bingo reward more than $1,000 in free slot play as prizes.

▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino has a mega-satellite tournament for its upcoming Rock ‘n’ Roll Poker Open. The tournament at 4 p.m. Sunday will qualify at least 10 players to play Nov. 24 in a tournament that carries a $2 million prize money guarantee. (Regular entry to that tournament costs $3,500.) Buy-in to Sunday’s tournament is $390. The first tournament in the 17-event Rock ‘n’ Roll Poker Open is Nov. 15.

▪ The Casino @ Dania Beach has 2 p.m. poker tournaments weekdays. Buy-in is $60 and the tournaments carry a $2,500 guarantee. The card room also has 7 p.m. tournaments weeknights: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays are free and Tuesdays and Thursdays are $40. There are also $40 tournaments at 1 p.m. Saturday and 5 p.m. Sundays.

▪ Gulfstream Park has a slot tournament each Monday in November. Patrons who earn at least 10 slot points are eligible. The tournament pays $2,500 in free play to the winner and runs from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m.

▪ Seminole Classic gives away up to $3,000 in free slot play every 30 minutes from 4-10:30 p.m. Saturday.

▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is selling items for sale that raise money for Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. A Coco for a Cure umbrella is $15 and a wristband is $5. A five-for-$23 beer bucket at Sunset Grill includes two Coco for A Cure koozies and $5 of the purchase goes to the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network.