The Seminole Tribe of Florida announced on Friday it would close its casinos in the Sunshine State to help control the spread of the coronavirus. The shutdown of its gaming venues took place at 6 p.m. ET.
The Seminoles, which owns Hard Rock International, operate six casinos in Florida. That includes Hard Rock gaming facilities in Tampa and Hollywood.
We will reopen as soon as it is appropriate and safe to do so,” the tribe said in a statement posted on all six casino web sites. “All hotel reservations during the closure period will be cancelled automatically. Hotel guests will be contacted directly to accommodate their current bookings and needs, wherever possible.”
The statement did not indicate if casino employees would continue to be paid during the shutdown.
While the tribe’s casinos elsewhere in the US had been shut down because of the COVID-19 outbreak, its venues in the Sunshine State were among the last to close. That was despite other Florida venues, like Calder Casino, closing its doors on Monday.
Even the Seminole Tribe’s administrative and other offices closed indefinitely on Monday, citing the public health emergency in the state.
Before the Seminoles announcement on Friday, the American Gaming Association estimated that 95 percent of commercial casinos and 84 percent of the 524 tribal casinos had closed within the past week because of concerns regarding the spread of the coronavirus.
State Lawmaker Pushed for Closure
The move comes after one Florida lawmaker pressed for the casinos to close.
State Rep. Jackie Toldeo (R-Tampa) said that keeping the casinos open was not a good public health strategy, especially for a state with – according to WorldAtlas.com – the largest percentage of its population consisting of senior citizens. While most who contract COVID-19 feel slight to moderate symptoms, seniors are considered a highly susceptible population for the lethal effects of the virus.
Before the tribe announced it would close the Florida casinos, Toledo went on social media claiming a Hard Rock Tampa employee was told they could not wear masks or gloves.
A message to Hard Rock representatives was not immediately returned Friday evening.
In a statement, Toledo said she was happy that tribal leadership decided to close.
“The health and well-being of our community is of the utmost importance as we battle this pandemic and operating the casino presents a health risk to workers, patrons, and our community at-large,” she said.
She also thanked those in the community who called to support the shutdown.
Florida COVID-19 Update
The Seminoles announcement came as the number of coronavirus cases in Florida jumped by more than 100 in a day. According to state government data, there are 563 confirmed cases in the state and 11 deaths.
Earlier in the week, Gov. Ron DeSantis ordered all the bars and nightclubs closed in the state for 30 days. The Republican also put in guidelines restricting crowds to no more than 10 people on the state’s public beaches.