IMMOKALEE, Fla. — The biggest expansion in gambling in several years is coming to southwest Florida on Monday.
The Seminole Tribe of Florida will usher in a “new era” of gambling at its casinos, including the Seminole Casino Hotel Immokalee, with craps, roulette, and retail sports betting.
While the quiet streets of Immokalee would never be confused with the bright lights of the Vegas strip, does the expansion of gambling give this Collier County community a chance to cash in?
“This certainly will help the Seminoles,” said Bob Jarvis, a law professor and gambling expert at Nova Southeastern University.
“This does not mean that Florida is now in league with Las Vegas or Macao (China), or other places people think of when they think of gambling,” Jarvis said.
That’s because even with the expanded gambling, options remain limited.
The Seminoles operate six casinos in various parts of the state, while other gambling hubs feature multiple casinos on the same street.
This week, the Seminole’s Hard Rock Bet app, which allows mobile sports betting anywhere in the Sunshine State, opened to all customers.
Gambling attorney Daniel Wallach believes year-round sunshine and beaches, with the addition to mobile sports betting, could help drive tourism.
“I think there is something to be said about giving sports gamblers a choice,” Wallach said.
According to Las Vegas tourism officials, every year around 300,000 people travel to Sin City to gamble during Super Bowl weekend, regardless of where the game is being played.
“You can peel off some of those 300,000 visitors, divert them to Florida because we have warm weather, hundreds of miles of pristine beaches. It makes a big difference in a cold weather month,” said Wallach.
It’s not clear what kind of impact locals are expecting.
The Collier County tourism board told Fox 4 they haven’t made any estimates on how the expanded gambling could impact the area.