By Steve Beauregard

The Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg-Clearwater Florida metropolitan area has 361 days of sun per year, 3 of the top 10 beaches in the United States, 3 million residents, and one casino.

It’s the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa, located off Interstate 4, just 7 miles north east of downtown Tampa. It’s the only casino in Hillsborough County, and there aren’t any casinos next door in Pinellas County.

Although there are some horse racing tracks, greyhound racing tracks, and poker rooms in the metropolitan region, the Seminole Hard Rock is the only traditional casino with slot machines even close to the Tampa-St. Petersburg area.

The Seminole Hard Rock is the only casino in the Tampa area

The Seminole Hard Rock is the only casino in the Tampa area

The next closest casino is the Seminole Casino Brighton, 140 miles to the southeast.

With this western Florida gambling monopoly, the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa is thriving. With 190,000 square feet of gaming space, it ranks as one of the largest casinos in the U.S.A.. And it’s about to get bigger (more on that below).

The Hard Rock currently has just over 4,000 slot machines, ranging from penny machines to high-limit slots where it costs (gulp) $1,000 per spin.

The more than 120 table games are spread out in different areas, and they include a high-limit room, a blackjack pit with sexy dealers, and an Asian-themed room called the Jubao Palace.

Here’s a map showing you the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa (orange star), along with the three area racetrack/poker rooms: Derby Lane (yellow), Tampa Downs (Black), and Tampa Greyhound Track (Brown).

While you’ll find most of the usual favorites at the Seminole Hard Rock: blackjack, Let-it-ride, mini-baccarat, Pai Gow, 3-card poker, etc., you will NOT find live craps games or roulette tables here. There are electronic craps and roulette, but not their live versions. I’m unclear as to the specifics, but the Seminole Indian tribe’s compact with the state of Florida appears to prohibit live craps and roulette.

(Related: Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Parking Fee & Map)

The resort does have poker however, and the Hard Rock Tampa’s remodeled poker room is one of the finest in Florida, with 46 tables. In addition to big tournaments, the usual no-limit cash games, the room offers Omaha Hi-Lo and Seven-Card Stud games.

A few of the 4,000 plus slot machines at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino Tampa

A few of the 4,000 plus slot machines at the Seminole Hard Rock Casino Tampa

In addition to its massive casino, the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa has a AAA Four Diamond hotel in the 12 story tower attached to the casino, five sit-down restaurants, a buffet, food court, five bars and a spa.

As for parking? There’s plenty of it (5,000 spaces to be exact), and self-parking here is free.

Seminole Hard Rock Tampa Expansion

The first phase of the resort’s massive $1 billion-plus expansion was completed in May of 2017, while the second phase is currently under construction as of this writing in 2018.

The expansion will include the coolest looking hotel tower in the United States, as the 10-story tower is shaped like a guitar.

What the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa will look likeWhat the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa will look like in the fall of 2019 in the fall of 2019

What the Seminole Hard Rock Tampa will look like in the fall of 2019

This second phase is expected to be completed in late summer/early fall of 2019, and will see the resort add 638 more hotel rooms, a 10 acre lush pool complex, more casino floor space, a larger spa, more restuarants, retail space, and a new concert hall.

Hard Rock Casino Tampa Hours

The Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa Bay is open 24 hours a day, seven days week, every day of the year, (including Christmas).

Poker Rooms and Other Gambling in Tampa Bay

The Seminole Hard Rock may be Tampa’s only casino, however there are some card game and race betting options for people looking to gamble in the area.

Tampa Bay Downs

This classic horse racing venue (it opened in 1926), is the only horse racing track on Florida’s west coast.

Although the live thoroughbred horse racing runs only from December to May, Tampa Bay Downs offers live simulcast wagering all year long.

In addition, the race track is home to a 23 seat poker room. Called “The Skills Poker Room,” it hosts tournaments and spreads cash games you’re your standard $1/2 No-limit Texas Hold’em, along with Pot-Limit Omaha, and even Stud.

The Tampa Bay Downs poker room is open seven days a week, from 10 AM to 4 AM.

(Related: Orlando Casinos)

Derby Lane

Operating in St. Petersburg since 1925, Derby Lane is the oldest greyhound dog racing track still in operation. The historic venue offers wagering on live dog races of course, along with simulcast betting on other greyhound and horse races around the country.

Derby Lane also has the Tampa-St. Pete area’s largest poker room. In addition to regular no-limit and limit Texas Hold’em games, the 55 table room offers some carnival games like 3 card poker, 1 card poker , Pai Gow, and Ultimate Texas Hold’em.

They also offer daily tournaments, including even single-table tourneys.

Tampa Greyhound Track

Although they haven’t offered greyhound racing since 2007, the name of this place hasn’t changed.

Today the track only offers simulcast racing of dog and horse races around the country. There’s been speculation that the track’s massive grounds will be the location for the proposed new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

For now though, the Tampa Greyhound Track remains open. It has a 14 table poker room, spreading no-limit hold’em, pot-limit Omaha, some carnival games, and even Chinese poker.

Tropical Breeze Casino

Formerly called the “Sun Cruz Casino,” this casino ship departs three times daily from Fort Richey, which is a 40 mile drive northwest of downtown Tampa Bay.

This isn’t exactly a luxurious, sparkling new ship, however maybe that’s not the point. Once the ship reaches international waters, the ship’s 100 slot machines and various table games (including craps, blackjack and roulette), open up for passengers to play.

There is a cover charge to board the ship, which was $8 at the time of this writing.

Photos courtesy of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tampa’s media/blog page.