For the past eight years it was easy to differentiate rivals Seminole Casino Coconut Creek and the Isle Casino and Racing in Pompano Beach as they battled for patrons from north Broward and south Palm Beach counties: Seminole Coconut Creek had blackjack and table games, but a night of gambling also would mean going home with smoky clothes. The Isle Casino could offer addition by way of subtraction, with smoking banned because of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act.
In fact, the Isle in 2010 printed the American Lung Association’s logo on its advertisements as a way to emphasize its smoke-free environment.
Seminole Coconut Creek, though, has found a way to douse those complaints. The casino this month opened a non-smoking floor, called level2. Casino officials converted the second floor, which had been used as a poker room, into a non-smoking casino.
Level2 consists of about 100 slot machines, blackjack tables and other table games.
“We’ve certainly heard over the years a request for non-smoking, and we found an area where we could do it,” Seminole Coconut Creek GM Steve Bonner said. The casino had a designated non-smoking area on the first floor, but Bonner correctly noted that “non-smoking areas historically haven’t done well.”
Casinos that allow smoking draw more customers – perhaps because casino patrons’ profile out to be the smoking-drinking-gambling type. Atlantic City casinos in 2008 saw business drop 15 percent when the state issued a clean air act similar to Florida’s. An exception was eventually made for casinos in New Jersey.
Miami-Dade’s four racetrack casinos also can’t allow smoking, although Hialeah Park has placed slot machines on a covered patio for those who like to puff and play. The Miccosukee Resort & Gaming in west Miami-Dade, like the Seminole casinos, is on sovereign land, so the state law against smoking does not apply.
Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, which offers table games that racetrack casinos cannot, makes about $350 million per year, based on state records. The Isle makes about half that, even though it is the most lucrative of the casinos at Broward and Miami-Dade horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons.
Poker players might be getting the worst of the deal at Seminole Coconut Creek, but upgrades are coming, Bonner said. The poker room had been on the second floor, but was moved to the first floor slot area, near 1st Street Deli. A filtration system costing about $1 million is being added to the poker room, and some barriers also will be added to give the poker room a feel of separation from the slot floor, Bonner said. Players complained the first couple of days, but have since adapted, Bonner said, noting that poker revenues have increased since the room was put with the rest of the action. (Getting from the first floor to the second requires and elevator.)
A room with one poker table, sequestered from the rest of the second floor by glass windows and a glass door, remains in a remote corner of the second floor. That table can still be used for high-limit or private poker games, Bonner said.