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Jackie Toledo calls on Seminole Hard Rock Casino to scale back operations amid coronavirus outbreak

The casino remains open 24/7 despite other casino closures.

Rep. Jackie Toledo is putting pressure on the Seminole Hard Rock Casino in Tampa to reduce its operating hours to help with social distancing measures aimed at reducing the spread of the coronavirus.

“I am writing to ask why the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is still operating on a normal schedule,” Toledo wrote in a letter to Steve Bonner, president of the casino. “The COVID-19 virus has become increasingly prevalent in Tampa Bay, and the Tampa Hard Rock Casino remains open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

“Please follow suit of your industry across the country, and close your doors to prevent exposure to some of our most vulnerable populations,” Toledo continued.

A spokesperson for the casino did not immediately respond to a request for comment on whether they would heed Toledo’s call.

Toledo is hosting a press conference in front of the casino Wednesday at 6 p.m. to up the pressure.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the casino had postponed all upcoming shows and events, closed all poker rooms, closed every other table in it restaurants and removed chairs from table games and turned off some slot machines to promote social distance. However, the casino remained open 24/7.

The casino may be forced to take further action after statewide mandates to close all bars and reduce restaurant capacity by half, a precaution the casino appears to have already taken.

Meanwhile, other casinos across the country have closed entirely, including the MGM and Wynn Resorts in Las Vegas. In South Florida, the Calder and Gulfstream casinos are closing, but the Seminole Hard Rock there also remained open.

“The Centers for Disease Control has recommended that social gatherings of more than 50 people should not take place. While I applaud the cancellation of upcoming shows as a means of precaution, notable casinos across our nation have taken full measures in order to prevent exposure to the COVID-19 virus,” Toledo wrote.

“Flattening the curve of exposure to the COVID-19 virus in our country starts with social distancing. Not taking proper measures at this point in time is not only an issue of public health, but a fiscal issue as well. The more that large groups of people interact, the greater the likelihood that Florida will spend tax dollars to treat preventable exposure — money that can otherwise be spent on a more vulnerable member of our community,” she continued.

“I thank you for hearing my message and participating inn a community effort. The health and safety of my community is important to me, and I hope that you will prove that you are working to protect our most vulnerable, aligning with suggestions from the CDC, the World Health Organization, and local and state government.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, 192 coronavirus cases were identified in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Health. Of those, seven were in Hillsborough County. Six people in the state have died from the virus.

Earlier Tuesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all bars and nightclubs to shut down for the next 30 days. 

DeSantis also detailed other restrictions that restaurants must adhere to contain the novel coronavirus in a press conference in Tallahassee.

The order would cap restaurants to 50% seating capacity in dining areas, with tables spaced at least six feet apart, and they must encourage takeout and delivery. Restaurants must also screen all of their employees for the disease. DeSantis says local governments have the flexibility to adjust the parameters based on the circumstances in their communities.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at Janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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