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South Florida blossoming as state’s new ‘Sin City’

Oct 30, 2007 3:21 AM

South Florida’s gaming scene has taken some big strides since the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino kick-started things with its opulent digs in 2004.

Las Vegas-style slots arrived in Broward County last November and cued a glitzy transformation for its fading pari-mutuels.

This summer, Florida law expanded gambling even further: Casinos can stay open 18 hours a day during the week and 24 hours on weekends, up from 16 hours every day. Casinos also can have as many as 2,000 slot machines, up from an earlier cap of 1,500.

Poker rooms now allow higher betting limits and soon pari-mutuels will offer tournament jackpots similar to the Seminole casinos’ popular "Bad Beat" progressive jackpot.

Maximum betting limits for poker have been raised to $5, from $2; and casinos now can offer No Limit Texas Hold ”˜em non-tournament games, with a $100 buy-in cap. Re-buys are allowed.

Lately, the prospect for even more gaming has surfaced. Voters in Miami-Dade County, who rejected Las Vegas-style slots at pari-mutuels in 2005, will get another round at the same question in January.

The centerpiece of the burgeoning gaming industry is the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino.

The palace that bingo built is the biggest, brightest and busiest casino in South Florida. That was true even before it gained worldwide notoriety as the place where Anna Nicole Smith died in room 607 in February (though her room has been renovated and renumbered).

Not many casinos can attract a crowd that doesn’t care about gambling, but Hard Rock has made itself a destination, stocked with bars, restaurants, a spa, live music and the Seminole Paradise complex next door, which offers yet more restaurants, nightclubs, shops and a concert venue.