Indian tribe debuts Florida's first legal blackjack games

MIAMI — Florida's first legal blackjack games began Sunday night with a rock 'n' roll twist.

With a ceremonial smashing of a guitar by rock musician Rob Patterson, plumes of smoke and puffs of confetti, the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino near Hollywood, north of Miami, kicked off its new card games. Entertainer Carmen Electra, in a spangly blue dress, sat between tribal council members Mitchell Cypress and Richard Bowers, both in traditional Indian clothing, for one of the first hands of blackjack.

Also on hand: actors Heather Graham, Lorraine Bracco and Frank Vincent.

The Seminoles, once destitute, bought the Hard Rock chain last year for $965 million and was able to broaden its gambling empire with the addition of house-banked table games as part of a gambling agreement signed by Gov. Charlie Crist in November. The tribe, which began its climb out of poverty in the 1970s with sales of discount cigarettes, now generates an estimated $1.2 billion a year in revenues.

In total, the tribe owns 127 Hard Rock Cafes, not including the new one to be built in Yankee Stadium plus two others planned in Seattle and Dallas. It also owns 17 hotels and casinos, in operation or under construction as far away as Dubai, plus Hard Rock Park, a rock 'n' roll theme park in Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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