Yes, Hurricane Irma rattled the South Florida casino world, but there were plenty of turbulent winds before and after that, too.
Here are my top five South Florida gambling news items for 2017:
▪ Gov. Rick Scott and the Seminole Tribe of Florida arrived at a settlement agreement, meaning they mutually found proper compensation after the tribe won a lawsuit against the state. (Florida had been allowing card rooms to operate games such as three-card poker and Ultimate Texas Hold ’em, violating the Seminoles’ exclusive rights to those games.) The agreement gives the tribe blackjack through 2030, and that financial certainty clears the way for the Seminoles to push ahead with a $1.5 billion expansion at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, which includes a hotel, new concert hall and shopping mall.
▪ Hurricane Irma flooded Mardi Gras Casino in Hallandale Beach. The poker room reopened Dec. 1; the slots portion is still closed. Rival Gulfstream Park offers special perks to Mardi Gras refugees, ticking off Mardi Gras owner Daniel Adkins. But the slot revenue figures show the real benefactor to be the Casino @ Dania Beach, which increased from $1.4 million per month to $2.2 million to $2.4 million. Gulfstream’s action also rose, but that was more attributable to the return of horse racing.
▪ A high roller and his lady friend are no longer speaking after a dispute over a $100,000 jackpot at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. Jan Flato says he supplied the money, while Marina Medvedeva Navarro pushed the Top Dollar machine “for good luck.” The Seminoles awarded the jackpot to Navarro. Gambling experts say that because slots operate on a continuous random number generator, the act of pushing the button is what constitutes the playing of a machine. Push it a microsecond earlier or later, and the results are different. Let this serve as your warning.
▪ Entertainment options are a growing focus at Hialeah Park and Magic City Casino as the properties continue to seek patrons who are interested in activities beyond slots. Both Hialeah Park and Magic City reveal plans to expand their staging.
▪ Gulfstream Park continues to put the whip to its horse racing endeavors. The inaugural Pegasus World Cup, held on Jan. 28, drew the full field of 12 entries, at $1 million per horse. The second Pegasus is set for Jan. 27, 2018. Gulfstream’s dominance means action continues to dry up at Calder Casino, to the point that officials are asking for a permit to run jai-alai instead of the horse racing required to keep their slot machines spinning.
▪ Seminole Classic’s “Choose Your Ride” giveaway is Friday night. Qualifiers will be selected every 30 minutes from 7 to 10 p.m. At 11 p.m. one qualifier will win the choice of a 2018 Chevrolet Equinox or 2018 Chrysler 300.
▪ The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood gives away $225,000 in free slot play from 4-11 p.m. Friday. The math: five patrons win $3,000, with drawings every 30 minutes.
▪ Gulfstream Park’s “Deck The Driver’s Seat” Cadillac Car Giveaway offers hourly free slot play drawings from 6-10 p.m. Saturday. The 2017 Cadillac XT5 drawing is at 11 p.m.
▪ Hialeah Park gives away $1,000 hourly from 7-11 p.m. New Year’s Eve and $5,000 at 1 a.m. Pink and poker VIP card holders receive one entry into the drawing. Silver card holders receive three entries and Black card holders five entries. There also will be party favors, live entertainment and door prizes.
▪ Seminole Casino Coconut Creek will host the Village People, featuring Victor Willis, at 11 p.m. New Year’s Eve at The Pavilion. General admission floor tickets ($95) are on sale at Ticketmaster.com, or by calling 800-653-8000. At Sorrisi, a three-course prix fixe menu for $80 per person will be available on New Year’s Eve (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and New Year’s Day (4 p.m. to 10 p.m.). Courses will include yellowfin crudo or chopped antipasto (first), pan-roasted seabass or herb-dusted ribeye (second), and mascarpone cheesecake or tiramisu (dessert). Reservations are recommended via 954-585-5379.
▪ The Seminole Hard Rock poker room has $1,000 high hands every 30 minutes with rollovers from noon to 11:30 p.m. Sunday. Then the high hand at midnight pays $2,018.
▪ Calder Casino gives away a Hyundai Santa Fe as part of a promotion New Year’s Day. Slot players have been able to earn entries for the drawing throughout December.