By: Phil Ammann
The Seminole Tribe of Florida has been quietly planning an expansion of the Hard Rock hotel chain — with a possible casino — in the agricultural area of Collier County near Immokalee.
Although there has yet been no official announcement, some casino employees have divulged a few of the plans with the Immokalee Water & Sewer District, which recently approved permits for new meters and hookups to maintain the facility.
“They want to break ground on the hotel in April and finish in December,” district executive director Eva Deyo told Laura Laden of NaplesNews.com. “They are also expanding the casino at the same time.”
Installation of sewer lines and meters will cost the Seminole Tribe more than $75,000, according to district-approved permits, for a planned 110-room hotel.
“They are planning to put up a four-story hotel,” said district board chair Fred Thomas. “It’s going to be up against the back of the casino.”
The Tribe expects to have the project completed by Christmas.
“I told them it would be a good idea if they would hook up with the Embassy Suites or something like that,” Thomas told NapelsNews. “They told me, ‘That’s not going to happen, this is our hotel,’ and their hotels have always been Hard Rocks.”
Since the property will be on tribal land, there is no need for government approval.
Previously, the tribe used its own water and sewage works for the existing Immokalee casino, which started in 1994 as a bingo parlor with 300 slots. Now it has grown into more than 75,000 square feet, with 1,200 slots and 30 table games, such as blackjack and three-card poker.
With the new agreement, the district will provide all of the new facility’s water.
According to Deyo, the district has three plants, with a total water volume of 5.6 million gallons daily, of which only about 2 million is being utilized, leaving more than enough capacity for a new, larger casino.
Expansion plans are arriving at the same time Gov. Rick Scott is renegotiating a pact with the Seminole Tribe. Currently, about $200 million a year goes to the state from the tribe in a revenue-sharing deal, where the tribe has exclusive rights to provide Las Vegas-style games outside of Broward and Miami-Dade Counties.
The Compact allows the tribe to operate Seminole Hard Rock Hotels & Casinos in Tampa and Hollywood, as well as several other casinos, including one in Immokalee. Others are in Hollywood, Coconut Creek, the Brighton Reservation just north of Lake Okeechobee, and one south of Lake Okeechobee on the Big Cypress Reservation.
The Immokalee casino employs 750 people, making it one of the largest employers in the area, and the expansion will be a boon, says Thomas.
“One of our blessings is the casino. It brings a lot of traffic to Immokalee.”