Las Vegas style slots to arrive to Seminole Hard Rock

The state’s only Las Vegas-style slots outside South Florida could flash and spin as soon as next week at Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. A public debut for 725 new machines is set for May 1.

But the first few will go live a week to 10 days earlier, said casino president John Fontana. “It’s exciting to not have to hold anything back and have all the tools in the tool box,” he said. The Seminole Tribe of Florida won the right to operate slots at its seven Florida casinos under a deal signed by Governor Charlie Crist and approved by federal officials in January.

Tampa’s casino is the largest in Florida with 3,200 Class II gaming machines. They look like slots but are actually electronic bingo games where players compete against each other. Gamblers play against the house on Vegas-style slots, called Class III devices, the same type used in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and other gambling meccas.

The agreement with the state also allows the tribe to operate the state’s first legal games of blackjack, baccarat and other ’banked’ card games where players bet against the house.

Seminole officials are in the process of hiring 3,650 dealers for their Florida casinos. The new card games should start at the Hollywood casino in June and reach Tampa by late summer or fall, according to Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen.