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

Seminole hard rock Casino Tampa
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

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 [email protected]


  • The Donald

    March 17, 2020 at 3:45 pm

    Very nice of the Seminoles to stay open! Maybe it’s time we thank them for their help with some FREE blankets!

  • Matt

    March 17, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Completely irresponsible for them to be allowed to operate the way they are. They should be subject to the same restrictions as a bar is.

  • Cris

    March 17, 2020 at 11:36 pm

    I agree they should be shut down. They couldn’t give me enough free play to go in there now. It appears to be greed. How awful staying open and risking their employees and patrons health. Do like the Venetian/Pallazo in Vegas SHUT DOWN pay your employees and donate your food and some cash

  • Rich

    March 17, 2020 at 11:43 pm

    GREED, GREED, GREED! As frequent visitors, We have cancelled all of our offers and promo’s and will not visit the property any time soon. If they do not step up and do their part in complying with this Corona virus pandemic we have no plans to ever return. This will definitely show if the Seminole Hard Rock is more concerned about their bottom dollar or the community and their employee’s and guest. VERY disappointing.

  • Johnny walker

    March 18, 2020 at 1:28 am

    They don’t care about the community that supports their extravagant drunk and drugged out lifestyles!

  • Kathleen

    March 18, 2020 at 2:48 am

    They have taken measures to help with the distancing of fellow players and extra cleaning of the machines. If people are worried about this I ask how many people have touched that money you spend at your local fast food place. How many people have touched that gas pump or how many have touched that key pad that you use for your debit card. Keep the casino open!!

  • Tom

    March 18, 2020 at 5:57 am

    The State of Florida never gave the order to shutdown the Dade and Broward casinos! Jackie and others in the Government, quit writing cute memos and do your job and issue the mandates like Ohio, Jersey and other states did

  • Rich

    March 18, 2020 at 9:32 am

    According to their web site these Fools are still keeping their buffet open. It says that the buffet is closed during the week days, but it will be open on Saturday and Sunday. I guess with Sunday brunch you now get a mimosa and a Corona!

  • Peggy

    March 18, 2020 at 11:58 am

    It’s high time that the Seminoles are held to the same level of responsibility as other casinos in this country who understand their commitment to their employees, patrons, and the population in general. They have been given a sweetheart deal for so many years that the power of their being on “sovereign ground” has caused them to feel so entitled and so powerful that they thumb their noses to logical requests that would benefit the health and wellness of their constituents. Other major hotel and casino chains should be permitted to come into our state as they have demonstrated that they will comply with sensible and responsible operation. The Seminoles, on the other hand, are proving that they do not deserve our loyalty and patronage due to their greed and arrogance.

  • Thomas Wrobleski

    March 18, 2020 at 5:24 pm

    They should be shut down this is redicualous the stupidity is epic i think there license should be suspended and fined per day until they comply. Florida needs to get some new cassinos that comply this is what we get for allowing them to operate outside our regulations. They rip the residents and tourists off with their gambling

  • hardrockplayer

    March 18, 2020 at 9:54 pm

    Stop the money grab. Be responsible to your employees, your (mostly elderly) guests and the community. Close down!!!! Also, pay your employees during the closure. If you could afford a $900 million renovation, you can afford to pay them.

    Furthermore, you have canceled promotions for which entries have already been earned: $100K Jackpot Party; $60 Puck Drop; and $300K Slot Machine. You claim it’s to prevent spread of COVID-19. However, Publix Gift Card and 75k slot promos which require more play are still going on. Stop the hypocrisy and close!

  • The man

    March 19, 2020 at 12:34 am

    Keep the doors open. People have to live their lives. Why are we valuing the lives of so few over the majority? The virus will hurt the very elderly and the sick the way all viruses do. Why is the country grinding to a halt for a very small percentage? I know I am being insensitive but this is really going to screw up millions of adults’ lives —that will lead to unemployment, country going broke, financial hardship, divorce, stress, health issues, depression, suicide, etc etc. not to mention the effects all of the above will have on their children.

    • Joe Smith

      March 19, 2020 at 3:11 am

      Right, its gonna hurt the elderly more than young people. But it’s a VIRUS. Much more transmittable than one’s previously seen. The only reason this is gonna last long is because of people like you down playing the whole scenario. Thousands of patrons and employees are getting put at risk. On top of that, there are thousands more that these people go home to who are being put at risk as well. Even if you don’t get symptoms, you can carry it.

      By keeping their doors open they’re displaying their lust for greed. They should be held criminally accountable for the lives they’re going to cost the same community they profit off of.

      • Terry

        March 19, 2020 at 6:27 am

        Wrong. We should have started staying home and in isolation decades ago if what you are saying is accurate. Markets/economy are tumbling cause of the fear that we are spreading. In 2008, the financial disaster was for concrete reasons and the market drastically corrected itself. There are no solid economic reasons why we are doing this to ourselves. However once this subsides, this will have only have created more disparity between the ultra rich and the poor/middle class. The ultra rich will take this opportunity to capture more market share for everything that has been artificially lowered. Middle class is suffering, middle class will be affected by this for decades. I guarantee we will look back at this and tell ourselves how foolish we were with the way that we responded to a pandemic that has virtually impacted 0% of the US and World Population. If you continue restricting markets (I.e. you must shut down your restaurants/businesses/operations) and dont allow them to do what markets are supposed to do, there is no amount of government intervention that will help us get through this… I don’t care if it’s Obama, Clinton, Bush or Trump at the reigns. That my friend is scary.

  • Greg Smith

    March 19, 2020 at 12:04 pm

    Service Type: Mayor Jane Castor’s Office

    Message: Dear Ms Castor and/or staff. I have some major concerns over the local Seminole Hard Casino of Tampa remaining open. I admittedly a frequent visitor to the club but have recently curtailed my going with concerns of COVID-19 spread. I am not sure who would have any oversight being the landowners of the club are somewhat different from our usual business owners in Tampa. However, I thought you should know as they have chose to keep a majority of the clubs open and a recent message from their CEO shows concern, I did not observe that last nite. I could’nt help but go to see what efforts are being made to curtain and truly implement safety practices for its patrons. CEO states more often and diligent cleaning of common areas (Slots, tables, counters). Assured there would be Hand sanitiizer dispensers available in multiple locations. Stated that upon request you could obtain a disinfectant wipe.As you must realize its a definite hotspot. As I came i thru the orient/Hillsborough entrance I went directly to the bellhop/Guest Services. Asked about where the dispensers were located and how I could get a wipe. He said he knew nothing of it (including a cocktail waitress, cleaning aide and cashier). He said I could “BUY’ a small sanitizer in the gift shop?! I then went to get a drink and the waitress also said she just served I would have to speak with someone in another area. When I went to the teller and she said also had heard nothing but offered to let me use HER sanitizer. I then went to play and there was a cleaning aide and I asked her for a wipe. She help up a few cleaning cloths and said this is all I have, and then somewhat offered if I wanted one? In two hours time (although it wasn’t heavily busy). I saw only TWO cleaners on the floor of this rather large casino area and where I was she passed one time. I also observed people ( a lot of millenials) going on business as usual but there were a good amount of mid-to older ranged folks. I saw one man within less that the 6 ft distance cough multiple times at his machine and a woman nearby out of concern pulled her blouse over her face.

    I called today to leave a message with public relations but got a voicemail only and addressed my concerns, no callback yet.
    I also said in my message that I was concerned that the protocol I saw in regards to containing the Virus outspread at their club was unacceptable. Am I overreacting or is this a CITY concern? Thank you for your time and commitment. I would also like to remain somewhat anonymous although I,ve already made the mistake of leaving that voicemail I now regret. But public safety is my concern regardless of the consequences.
    3/17/2020 4:36 PM
    Message Read
    M Phillips, Mayor’s Office Support Specialist, Office of the Mayor
    3/17/2020 4:42 PM
    Message Read via TampaGov

    • Kathleen

      March 19, 2020 at 7:09 pm

      Evidently you stayed long enough to observe this. If you were so concerned you would have left right away or wouldn’t enter at all. How many door handles do you touch, gas pump handles, keypads that you touch to put in your debit card pin, money you touch paper or coin, boxes or cans at the grocery store and put in your cart etc.. Let the customer decide for themselves no one is forcing them to go

  • Patrick M Ryan

    March 19, 2020 at 12:50 pm

    Quit writing about things that shouldn’t effect you. You are causing more media panic b.s.
    If you’re so concerned about catching the virus, just away from the casino instead of trying to make your mark on the backs of frightened readers

    • greg smith

      March 19, 2020 at 1:30 pm

      So, you obviously do not care that some of us are doing our best to take personal responsibility in trying to avoid a more spread of the disease within our community, Thats nice, keep on the wagon with TRUMP, he will get through this. And, how you can deny based on the facts of the CDC that social distancing is necessary. You really believe that casinos are not a hotspot? GET REAL?! I am so sure he will help you out, and pay you back for all the losses the US has incurred because of his delays! FYI, I am all for retailers and clubs staying open, but when a CEO states they are following protocol a lie, how can say I am trying to panic people. You are unrealistic of the situation and sound like you would be the first one to stockpile supplies and resale them! Your bad….

  • Cool as a Cucumber

    March 19, 2020 at 3:21 pm

    1.4 Billion confirmed cases of H1N1 (swine flu) 575,000 deaths

    Ground zero: Veracruz, Mexico (756 miles to the USA-Mexico Border).

    No hysteria.

  • Claire

    March 19, 2020 at 6:58 pm

    the Seminole casinos need to cooperate. The public has no clue of the germs and filth that is lingering in a casino environment. The chips and the money are in all the dealers guests and cashiers hands. If the Governor feels that parks and bars along with restaurants need to be closed for the safety of the public needless to say the employees who are subject to this environment than why should the Seminole’s be an exception. If we are going to get rid of the virus it has to apply to everyone. When it hits home to some of you hypocrites you will feel a whole lot differently.

  • Greg Smith

    March 19, 2020 at 11:28 pm

    Hey Kathlene why don’t you and Patrick go up to SEMINOLE HARDROCK and other hopspot places in our bay area and protest, that some of the community is trying to prevent widespread efforts on our community. My whole point (if you even read the article, I frequented Seminole HARDROCK and what I saw and HEAD from employee’s was not what their CEO was stating to protect US and their employee’s. Instead of trashing me why don’y you go out on the corner of Hillsborough Ave and Orient road and HOLD UP A SIGN CONGRATULATING TRUMP for these concerns. I am only trying to assert the concerns that I saw at the club. I didn’t even deny that I am a regular. Your paranoid phobia as Patrick put it only shows your ignorance of trying to downplay a possible threat to us all. I bet if one of your best friends or family member contracted the disease your tone would be completely different. Go ahead and blame me a a concerned and proud Tampa citizen for trying to tell the facts of what I saw. Get on TRUMPS bandwagon now and call the media FAKE NEWS, I’m sure that will help inform the general public of the reality out there. BTW My means were of no way to create panic. I only call it as I see it and I See a liar CEO not doing what he professes he is doing! I wish no one one harm only information that I as a patron have witnessed personally. So spend your time and energy attacking and addressing the real issues and concerns of our shared community!

    • Kathleen

      March 19, 2020 at 11:59 pm

      Guess what I am going there and I’m going to have a damn good time

Comments are closed.


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