The Seminole Casino Hotel is a Game Changer
By Craig Garrett
Ewa Laurance is happily gushing about her stay at the recently opened Seminole Casino Hotel. She is at the Immokalee casino for a billiards match to be broadcast on ESPN. One of the game’s great players, she is packing a pool cue alongside a circle of admirers and ESPN producers who have just filmed her in an instructional billiards program. The match that includes other professionals and the instructional film is for broadcast in December. Laurance had played against Jeanette “Black Widow” Lee for the $25,000 winner’s pot. Other champion players and trick-shot professionals participated in the three-day event.
Lodged at the new Seminole Casino Hotel for the billiards event, Laurance is boasting to her admirers about the hotel’s deluxe room in which she stayed, saying, “My husband and I are like, seriously? Everyone [billiards’ players] is commenting this is first class. I guess I didn’t know what to expect. I can’t say I’m surprised… but I am. It’s a very nice hotel.”
The Seminole Casino expansion that includes the 99-room hotel is part of a renewal package of some $40 million, says James Gibson, the casino’s marketing director. The makeover includes the 800-seat Seminole Center entertainment venue―converted into an intimate forum for the billiards tournament and trick-shot event―the Lucky Mi Noodle House, a remodeled Paradise High Limit Room, a new poker room and the addition of nearly 6,000 square feet of casino floor space with fresh flooring for some 1,300 slots and gaming tables. Expansion also meant more than 100 new jobs, Gibson notes. The Seminole Casino Immokalee, he says, is about “enhancing the gaming experience for our guests. We wanted to provide that fresh Florida feel.”
The Seminole Casino Hotel, which opened last March, provides the first upscale accommodations outside of Naples. It has 19 suites and 80 deluxe rooms on four floors. The deluxe rooms offer traditional amenities such as wireless, mini-fridges, large-screen televisions and coffeemakers. But what’s different is the feel of the rooms, which are elegantly lofty in flat grays with accents in signature colors and patterning of Seminole heritage. Elbow room and frills define the much larger suites, which traditionally serve higher spenders. The new accommodations are warm and welcoming. The hotel also has a swimming pool with available private huts, a fitness facility and business center.
Even though casino hotels are traditionally made available to high-stakes visitors, that doesn’t mean day-cationers shouldn’t book a special weekend or evening at the hotel, Gibson says. He’s seeing a sharp uptick in night stays for ticket-holders for the casino’s popular shows and concerts, celebrity events, holidays, balloon festival, poker tourneys and other entertainment venues, including the first Hall of Fame Challenge in which Laurance competed. The event was packed with billiards enthusiasts. “We’re receiving great guest feedback,” Gibson says of the renovations. “They’re really liking the product.”
The Seminoles of Florida call themselves the “Unconquered People,” descendants of just 300 Native Americans. The tribe can trace its roots back 12,000 years, expanding roadside tourist stands, groves and cattle businesses in the 1950s into bingo and tobacco shops in the 1970s. Gaming was the next step with the opening in 1979 of the Seminole Casino Hollywood, beginning what has become the most successful Native American gaming operation in the country. Thousands of workers are employed at the tribe’s six Florida casinos and other enterprises, including cattle ranching, citrus production and sports management. Today more than 2,000 residents live on six reservations in Hollywood, Big Cypress, Brighton, Immokalee, Fort Pierce and Tampa.
Gregg Hovey owns Billiards International, the California company producing the Hall of Fame Challenge at Seminole Casino Immokalee, the Tournament of Champions (men and women) and the Trick Shot Magic exhibition shown on ESPN in late December. He was delighted with his hotel stay, he says, as was Linda Johnson, a poker champion recently playing a World Poker Tour tournament at Seminole Casino Immokalee. “I really didn’t want to leave,” the poker legend said of her Seminole Casino Hotel stay. “And everything in the casino is beautiful and spacious. It just feels like family. I totally enjoyed it.”
Craig Garrett is editor-in-chief for TOTI Media.
Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee 506 First St., Immokalee, FL 34142 800-218-0007; seminoleimmokaleecasino.com