Back in play: CEO of Seminole Gaming talks safety as Hard Rock Casino reopens

Hillsborough County

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Seminole Hard Rock Casino is back in play Thursday after being shut down for roughly two months due to the coronavirus crisis.

8 On Your Side went inside the sprawling casino along I-4 and learned there is a host of new safety measures to help keep customers healthy.

From warning signs to hand sanitizer machines to cleaning crews specifically crafted for COVID-19, the casino is doing all it can to keep safety front and center.

“We probably have a little bit of overkill,” said Seminole Gaming CEO Jim Allen. “We yielded on the side of safety.”

VIP members were allowed inside the casino Thursday morning, before the general reopening scheduled for 7 p.m.

“I think it’s probably one of the cleanest places,” said Pam McKee, who came from Lakeland to Tampa to enjoy the reopening.

8 On Your Side found out that cleanliness and health are key to the casino going forward.

People who walk into the building will undergo a seamless temperature check with a thermal imaging machine. Anyone showing a temperature of 100.4 or above will be re-checked, then asked to leave if it still reads high, casino officials said.

“I think that’s wonderful. That’s great. At least we can come. Don’t mind wearing a mask or doing these things. I think it’s great,” said Linda Jouhfi, who stopped by from St. Petersburg.

Something else that is great, according to the CEO, casino workers are finally back on the job. Around 2,000 of the casino’s 4,200 employees were back at it Thursday, and to Allen, that is the real jackpot.

“I recognize there are a lot of emotions with this topic,” Allen said about the pandemic. “But to have the ability to bring people back to work in a safe environment, we’re certainly very proud of [it].”

The casino sent 8 On Your Side the following list of new safety measures:

  • Temperature checks for all guests and team members prior to entry. Any guest or team member with a temperature above CDC guidelines will not be allowed entry.
  • A requirement that all guests wear masks or cloth face coverings that meet CDC guidelines, without exception. Masks will be provided to guests, as needed.
  • Thousands of alternating slot machines will be turned off, to help ensure social distancing on the casino floor.
  • New Plexiglas barriers will divide players at table games, poker games and customer service areas.
  • 850 signs will be posted throughout the complex to encourage social distancing and help ensure adherence to Safe and Sound Program guidelines.
  • More than 100 team members will be part of a new “Safe and Sound Clean Team” to focus on cleaning and disinfecting surfaces throughout the complex, with special emphasis on high-touch surfaces and common areas.
  • Hand-sanitizing stations will be available on the casino floor, at the entrances and throughout the resort.
  • Constant purification and disinfecting of the air flowing into the complex through the AtmosAir™ bipolar ionization system designed to destroy virus particles in the air and on surfaces.
  • An overall 50 percent reduction in guest capacity throughout the resort.


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