Seminoles hit the jackpot - Thursday 12th of May 2005

Florida gambling business is hot As the Hollywood Hard Rock Hotel & Casino hits its one-year anniversary today, its no secret the resort and the Seminoles other casinos are raking in the bucks.But how much exactly?Well, in one month alone - February - revelers spent $75.8 million on slot machines, hotel rooms, food and shopping at the Hard Rocks in Hollywood and Tampa and the Hollywood bingo hall. Thats $445 per slot machine per day for the house.

Thats $37.4 million in net profit.Of that, a cool $21.4 million went to the tribe. Between the Hard Rocks and four smaller betting parlors around the state, including Hollywood and Coconut Creek, the Seminoles are on track to reach $1.2 billion in revenue this year if the February pace keeps up.The figures, detailed in financial statements filed with federal regulators, make the Seminoles one of the nations richest gaming tribes and put the Hard Rocks on the countrys top tier of financially successful casinos.Only a handful of casinos in the U.S. can claim the $445 average daily take of each of the 4,786 slots in the tribes operations. "By any measure, very few machines in the U.S. of any type are doing $400 a day," said Eugene M. Christiansen, chief executive of Christiansen Capital Advisors, which tracks the gaming industry. "There are some, but not many.

The Hard Rocks are performing extremely well."And theres more to come. This summer the Seminoles are unveiling a 5,600-seat concert arena at the Hollywood Hard Rock and are set to start a major renovation of their Coconut Creek bingo hall with the aim of transforming it into a resort la Hard Rock.The financial statements crack open the closely guarded curtain the tribe has historically drawn around its finances. One revelation: The small smoky bingo halls are veritable cash cows that rake in oodles of dough without big overhead.Before the splashy Hard Rocks opened a year ago, the old betting parlors in Hollywood and Tampa reeled in $237 million in net income on revenue of $304.5 million in 2003 - an astounding 78 percent profit margin. The tribe owns three more bingo halls in Brighton, Immokalee and Coconut Creek; Tampas was demolished to make room for the Hard Rock.Following tribal policy, James F. Allen, chief executive of gaming operations for the Seminoles, declined to comment on finances, saying only: "Its exceeded expectations."

With one of the highest slot machine profits in the country, a 90 percent-plus year-round hotel occupancy rate and a fully booked banquet calendar, the Seminoles have indeed hit the jackpot with the Hard Rocks.Thats clear to anyone who has visited the Hollywood complex on a weekend night and experienced a parking crunch worse than the Saturday before Christmas at the mall.Boasting a cluster of trendy nightclubs, restaurants, boutique shops, an Indian cultural center, as well as the gambling emporium, hotel and tropical poolside lounge, the Hollywood Hard Rock attracts 25,000 to 40,000 visitors on a weekend day.

"The weekend business has been tremendous," Allen said, adding parking woes have largely been solved with 27 additional parking controllers to direct traffic and the use of surrounding tribal land for overflow parking.The tribe is also planning to add a 2,000-space garage by year end

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