Coconut Creek adds non-smoking slots, blackjack


One way for casinos to coax gamblers to their facility is to offer giveaways and perks. Another way is to eliminate things that patrons have objections to. Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is doing the latter, by dousing out the biggest deal-breaker for many South Florida who gamble: smoking.

Casino officials converted their second floor, which had been used as a poker room, into a non-smoking casino, called level 2. It has about 100 slot machines, blackjack tables, and other table games. The entire filtration system for the first floor was also upgraded.

“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.

Seminole Coconut Creek battles the nearby Isle Casino and Racing, in Pompano Beach, for patrons from north Broward and south Palm Beach counties. The Isle Casino must ban smoking because of the Florida Clean Indoor Air Act, a law that the Seminole Casino Coconut Creek is not subject to. But the Isle Casino made lemonade out of lemons by promoting their casino as smoke-free. The Isle Casino even printed, in 2010, the American Lung Association’s logo on its advertisements, to emphasize its smoke-free environment.

As casinos owner know, smoking is usually an advantage – perhaps because the profile of many casino patrons is the smoking-drinking-gambling type. In 2008, Atlantic City casinos saw business drop 15 percent when the state issued a clean air act similar to Florida’s. An exception to New Jersey law was eventually made for casinos in that state.

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 horse tracks, dog tracks and jai-alai frontons in Broward and Miami-Dade counties.

Poker players might be getting the worst of the recent change at Seminole Coconut Creek. All but one poker table was moved to the first floor slot area, near the 1st Street Deli. But upgrades are coming, Bonner said. Some barriers will be added to give the poker area a feel of separation from the slot floor, and a second filtration system, costing about $1 million, will be added for the poker area. Players complained the first couple of days, but have since adapted, Bonner said, noting that poker revenues have increased since the poker tables were moved closer to the rest of the action.

On the non-smoking second floor, in a remote corner, there is now a room with one poker table, sequestered from the rest of the floor by glass windows and a glass door. That table can still be used for high-limit or private poker games, Bonner said.