The Seminole Hard Rock casino in Tampa is a low-slung, vanilla-colored, 37-acre playpen with a 50-foot replica of a Paul McCartney electric guitar at the street entrance and an Elvis-autographed six-string inside. On Saturday night, it becomes a cross between an outlet mall, a meat market, and a nursing home. The gift shop offers Grateful Dead swim trunks for $60. The don't-call-them-slot machines siphon sawbucks from your grandparents' money clips while wide-bodied go-getters with sideburns and sneers coagulate around the three casino bars. The carpet designs are chromatic explosions. The lights on the ceiling keep changing colors. The wait for a seat in the 32-table poker room is two hours. The ten-month-old, 90,000-square-foot casino bristles with the human static that comes when "Village of the Damned" Aryans share a room with large women wearing Shaun King jerseys, the Nickelodeon set, white boys in FUBU, and the determined elderly, including a woman who looks like Strom... More >>>
At left: Steve Watkins, lead instructor at the makeshift poker academy training the new Hard Rock's dealers, assures students: "You can never get worse. You can only get better." At right: Doug Pattison, president of the Hollywood Hard Rock complex, oversees the micro-Vegas complex in the Broward 'burbs.