Seminole Gaming on Saturday changed the COVID-19 mask policy at all of its Florida casinos in response to a South Florida Sun Sentinel report that found unmasked guests throughout the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Hollywood.
Consistent with rules at South Florida restaurants, the casino allows guests to lower their masks while eating, drinking or smoking. But these casino patrons also were permitted to keep their masks lowered while they walked with their drinks or cigarettes, and the Sun Sentinel found frequent instances of unmasked strangers intermingling.
The new mask rule, which goes into effect immediately, requires guests who are eating, drinking or smoking to be stationary while their masks are lowered. Moving through public spaces without a properly worn face covering is prohibited.
In another move, Seminole Gaming temporarily closed a restaurant-bar called PLA, a tenant business at Hard Rock Hollywood that the Sun Sentinel found serving drinks to unmasked strangers seated in close proximity to each other Thursday night.
“Every day we’re going to revisit what we’re doing and adjust. This unfortunate COVID-19 continues to be a learning experience for all of us,” Seminole Gaming president and CEO Jim Allen said. He called the activities described in the Sun Sentinel story “disappointing.”
Hard Rock Hollywood is the crown jewel of five casino properties Seminole Gaming operates in the state, along with Seminole Classic in Hollywood, Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, Seminole Brighton in Okeechobee and Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa. Seminole Casino Hotel in Immokalee remains closed.
The new mask policy will be in effect at all five casinos.
The Sun Sentinel report was posted Friday night and Allen said senior Seminole Gaming officials agreed to the rule change on Saturday morning.
Allen acknowledged that allowing some patrons to move about the casino without a face covering made the mask policy more difficult for staff to enforce.
He said Seminole Gaming will beef up its COVID enforcement team, expanding its ranks and outfitting them with distinctive uniforms. He said new team members — they are targeting existing staff and those who have not returned to work — would be chosen for their ability to be “customer-friendly, but yet firm.”
PLA will be closed through the weekend, and Hard Rock Hollywood officials and the owners of the restaurant will meet Monday to discuss its future, Allen said.
“My decision to close them hopefully demonstrates that [Seminole Tribe] chairman [Marcellus] Osceola, the Seminole Tribe, and my commitment to public safety,” Allen said. “This is not about making money for us in a bar. If that activity is going to create a problem, then they will not be allowed to reopen.”
Staff writer Ben Crandell can be reached at email@example.com.
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