Lavish casinos expand South Florida’s gaming

Miami -South Florida’s gaming scene has taken some big strides since the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino kick-started things with its opulent digs in 2004.

Las Vegas-style slots arrived in Broward County last November and cued a glitzy transformation for its fading parimutuels.

This past summer, Florida law expanded gambling even further: Casinos can stay open 18 hours a day during the week and 24 hours on weekends, up from 16 hours every day. Casinos also can have as many as 2,000 slot machines, up from an earlier cap of 1,500.

Poker rooms now allow higher betting limits and soon pari-mutuels will offer tournament jackpots similar to the Seminole casinos‘ popular „Bad Beat“ progressive jackpot.

Maximum betting limits for poker have been raised to USD 5 from USD 2; and casinos now can offer No Limit Texas Hold ‚Em non-tournament games, with a USD 100 buy-in cap. Re-buys are allowed.

Lately, the prospect for even more gaming has surfaced. Voters in Miami-Dade County, who rejected Las Vegas-style slots at pari-mutuels in 2005, will get another round at the same question in January.

Casinos in Broward already offer Miami-Dade residents a look at what may come.

Gulfstream Park Racing and Casino and the Mardi Gras Race Track and Gaming Center (formerly Hollywood Greyhound Track), both in Hallandale Beach, have opened „racinos“ – combined tracks and gaming rooms that downplay the old staples of horse and greyhound racing while raising the profile of slot machines and card games such as poker, Omaha and Seven Card Stud.

The Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano (formerly Pompano Park Harness Track) debuted a USD 160 million casino in April, while Dania Jai Alai expects to complete a USD 200 million casino complex in late 2008.

The three Seminole casinos in Broward offer 24-hour gaming, progressive jackpots and permit smoking in their game rooms (it’s banned in casinos not on Indian reservations). Their slot machines (called Class II) are actually bingo-based video gaming machines where players wager against each other instead of the house.

The Class II slot machines differ from Las Vegas-style slots, available at Broward’s racinos, where you bet against the house. The odds might not differ greatly, but the jackpots for Class II games aren’t as lucrative. Payouts for Class II slots are uncertain, however, because the Seminole Tribe does not have to report those figures, nor do they have to abide by state-mandated 85 percent minimum payout rates.